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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH49115: Advanced Studies in Palaeoanthropology and Palaeoecology

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce the fundamentals of mammalian palaeoecology
  • To explore how palaeoecological theory and observations of modern animal morphology and behaviour can be applied to the fossil record as it relates to hominin evolution
  • To provide students with a set of critical methods and tools for reconstructing the ecology and environments of Pliocene and Pleistocene hominins


  • The module will present the theory that underlies the discipline of mammalian palaeoecology and teach students how to apply it to the hominin and non-hominin mammalian fossil record.
  • The module will focus largely on the fossil record of the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Africa, but may also cover other time periods and geographical regions where appropriate.
  • Topics that may be covered include: mammalian morphology and ecological behaviour, the exploitation of niches, mammal community analysis, ecomorphology and functional morphology, hominin palaeoenvironments, hominin evolution and climate change, and hominin ecological behaviours.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge of and debates in palaeoecology and palaeoanthropology.
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of palaeoecological and palaeoanthropological theory.
  • Demonstrate competence in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
  • In-depth knowledge of relevant theory and knowledge, with emphasis on interpretation and comprehensive understanding of primary or secondary data.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Develop and apply analytical thinking to palaeoanthropology and palaeoecology, with emphasis on interpretation and comprehensive understanding of primary and secondary data.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written form.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, and provide relevant examples and cases studies.
  • Seminar elements will develop further critical knowledge of weekly topics and material covered in the required readings, allowing students to discuss literature, pose questions and answer questions for others. This will assist in preparing students for their summative assignment.
  • Practical components will provide students with hands-on experience of the research and relevant methods.
  • Advanced discussion classes will allow students to develop their skills of critical thinking and evaluation, as well as how to synthesise and interrogate material at a level commensurate with postgraduate attainment.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of lectures/seminars including those that can be used for the assessment.
  • Summative assessment will consist of a 2,500 word written piece of work.
  • The critical reading log is an annotated bibliography in which the evidence and arguments presented in readings selected by the student and relevant to the development of their summative assessment are evaluated and critiqued. This along with the other summative component should show evidence of a higher level of engagement expected at postgraduate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures/seminar classes 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Practicals 5 Fornightly 1 hour 5
Advanced discussion class 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written assignment 2500 words 80%
Critical reading log 1000 words 20%

Formative Assessment:

500 word written piece. Reading log sample.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University