Dressing the Past: The Archaeology of Clothing


People have been wearing clothes for thousands of years: to keep themselves warm and dry, for modesty and allurement. In this course we will look at the archaeology of clothing of various kinds from hats to buckles, from earliest times to the Medieval period. We will examine side issues such as how clothes were manufactured, spinning, dyeing and weaving. We will look at the scientific examination of clothing, such as fibre identification, and the materials used in the past such as leather, wool and linen. Even nettles were used to make clothes in prehistory.  We will also find out how clothes have survived in archaeological contexts. This is an introductory course and students need have no background in archaeology to take it.

Programme details

Course begins: 22 Sept 2021

Week 0: An Introduction to Teams

Week 1: Introduction: why wear clothes?

Week 2: Hunter-gatherer clothing: use of natural materials (Palaeolithic to Mesolithic; modern hunter-gatherers)

Week 3: Materials 1: Weeks 3 and 4 will include: spinning, dyeing, sewing, weaving, types of materials, fibre identification.

Week 4: Materials 2

Week 5:  Iron Age and Roman clothes

Week 6: Anglo-Saxon and Medieval clothes

Week 7:  Shoes, hats and underwear 

Week 8:  Accoutrements; brooches, pins, buttons, buckles, belts and purses

Week 9: Jewellery

Week 10:  Conclusion, reinactment, illustration


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 £229.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


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 study the archaeology of clothing from earliest times to the Medieval period

Course objectives:

1. To examine clothing over a broad space of time, from the Palaeolithic to the Medieval Period

2. To identify clothes in the archaeological record

3. To examine the techniques of production

Teaching methods

The course will be taught with 3 pieces of recorded lectures, interspersed with  discussion sessions. Course members will be encouraged to contribute and ask questions.

Learning outcomes

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

Identify ways in which clothing survives in the archaeological record.

Distinguish between the clothes of earliest times and after the introduction of textiles

Identify methods of production

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.


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. 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 application form.

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)