Bread and Beer: The Archaeology of Food


This course explores the archaeology of food: what did people eat and drink and how do we know this? We will focus on archaeological evidence from earliest prehistory to the medieval period, mainly from northern Europe and occasionally the Mediterranean.

We will examine the real evidence for the Palaeolithic diet, the archaeological evidence for the consumption of milk products and alcohol, and the changes in diet with the coming of agriculture. We will also cover the cooking, preservation and storage of food in the past and examine the archaeological evidence for ritual and social mores associated with food.

As part of the course we will have a session of experimental cooking – grinding corn by hand on querns, making flat breads, cooking on hot stones; this will be at Romilly Swann’s Experimental Centre on the River Thames near Caversham. This will involve a small cost per student for materials, use of space etc.

Programme details

Course begins: 28th Sept 2023

Week 1: Introduction: earliest foods and archaeological evidence

Week 2: Vegetable foods: bread and beans

Week 3: Meat: hunting and domestication

Week 4: Drinks: milk and beer

Week 5: Trip:  experimental food preparation and cooking

Week 6: Preservation of food

Week 7: Cooking and serving food

Week 8: Industrialisation of food

Week 9: Problems with food and new foods

Week 10: Food rituals: Conclusion


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Jennifer Foster

Jennifer Foster is an archaeologist who has specialised in the study of artefacts. She has worked at the British and Ashmolean Museums. She has been teaching archaeology to continuing education students for 30 years.

Course aims

To learn about the archaeological evidence for food and drink in the past.

Course Objectives:

  • To examine the production of food and drink in the past.
  • To discuss the interpretation of archaeological evidence for food.
  • To discuss the archaeological interpretation of food remains.

Teaching methods

The course will be taught by lectures, illustrated with power point presentations and discussion sessions. Course members will be encouraged to contribute and ask questions and practical exercises will be used to aid understanding. In week 5 we will have a practical experimental cooking session. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to:

  • describe the evidence from archaeology for food and drink
  • discuss the ritual aspects of the prehistoric die
  • take notes on an experimental trip.

Assessment methods

There will be three short pieces of work totalling 1,500 words. Students can write an essay of 1,500 words should they prefer to.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

No background experience is required.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)