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Durham University

Postgraduate Modules 2019/2020

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run in each academic year. Each module description relates to the year indicated in the module availability box. Please be aware that modules may change from year to year, and may be amended to take account of, for example: changing staff expertise, disciplinary developments, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback.

Department: Archaeology

ARCH52730: RESEARCH TOPICS IN PREHISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGY (SINGLE MODULE)

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20

Prerequisites

  • None

Corequisites

  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None

Aims

  • To develop an in-depth knowledge and understanding of a specialised aspect of prehistoric archaeology chosen from a list of topics representing the main areas of research in the Department and the Strands within the MA in Archaeology.

Content

  • One of the following topics as available:
  • Palaeolithic Britain in regional context: The framework of current British Palaeolithic research; the earliest occupation of Britain; river terraces, flora and fauna of the British Pleistocene; Island Britain: palaeogeography and palaeodemography; from Boxgrove to Bilzingsleben: interpretations of human behaviour and society 500-300kyr; the Clactonian and the Acheulean: their chronology and meaning; the great leap forwards: Levallois and the Lower-Middle Paleolithic transition; the later Middle Palaeolithic and the emergence of cultural geographies; Britain: the Upper Pleistocene human desert; Upper Palaeolithic Britain: settlement history and material culture.
  • People, sets and fragments in Balkan prehistory: recent approaches to material culture; recent approaches to personhood; quantity, quality and diversity in material culture; artefact design - changes and developments; colour - environment, raw materials and objects; fragmentation and enchainment; sets and accumulation; human bone deposits and whole bodies; gender, bodies and figurines; high-status persons and cemeteries.
  • Social space and community organisation in Balkan prehistory: Introduction to the social archaeology of dwelling in the landscape; households and houses - place-value and rootedness; the domestic mode of production - and other myths; structured deposition and deliberate house burning; public buildings in the Balkan Neolithic and Chalcolithic; the early Balkan village - design and planning; social space in the village; settlement patterns - farmstead, village and "town"; social networks, boundaries and exchange.
  • Britain and Ireland in the Age of Stonehenge: The framework of current Neolithic/Bronze Age research; spatial and temporal patterns in material culture; settlement and enclosure; warfare, defence and territoriality; agriculture and craft production; ritual and mortuary practices; trade and exchange; power and ideology in later prehistory; social organisation in later prehistoric Britain.
  • Iron Age Britain in its European Context: The framework of current Iron Age research; spatial and temporal patterns in material culture; settlement and enclosure; warfare, defence and territoriality; domestic and community organisation; agriculture and craft production; ritual and mortuary practices; coinage and exchange; ethnicity, identity and movement; the beginnings of urbanisation; Iron Age social and political organisation; societies on the edge of the Roman world.
  • Art and Archaeology of the European Upper Palaeolithic: This component will provide an up-to-date introduction to the overall nature of the art and archaeology of Pleistocene Homo sapiens in Europe. After a general orientation lecture focused on the art of Lascaux cave, lectures will provide general overviews and examples of current debates in major subdivisions of the European Initial, Early, Mid and Late Upper Palaeolithic, as well as in major thematic areas.
  • Hunting and Gathering: The Intellectual history of hunter-gatherer studies; hunter-gatherer behaviour in evolutionary perspective; hunter-gatherer technology: a comparative approach; hunter-gatherer societies in the Late Pleistocene, Holocene and recent past; hunter-gatherer politics, immediate and delayed return; hunter-gatherers as cultural beings.
  • Environmental Archaeology of the North Atlantic Islands: Nature of human/environment interaction across a variety of island systems in the North Atlantic during the later prehistoric and Norse periods. Research themes including issues of colonisation and human impact on island environments, adaptation to marginal environments and economic continuity and change. Multi-disciplinary case studies integrating various archaeological and palaeo-environmental techniques. Reconstruction of the later prehistoric and Norse environment and economy of three of the main island systems in the Atlantic seaboard of Scotland (Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland). The human/environment interaction during the Norse expansion across the wider North Atlantic examined for the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland.
  • Neolithic Monuments in Atlantic Europe: Neolithic monuments of western Europe with particular emphasis on the interplay between monuments and their landscapes. The development of approaches to the interpretation of these monuments from the early antiquaries in Britain and overseas, to the diffusionism and ‘megalithic missionaries’ of the early 20th century, to an assessment of the value of recent phenomenological perspectives. The character and chronology of the Neolithic monuments in four areas of western Europe: Iberia, France, Britain and Ireland, and south Scandinavia. Landscape relationships and the significance of differing burial practices. Analysis of key sites and areas including Stonehenge and Avebury, Orkney and the Boyne valley, Denmark and southern Brittany. Neolithic monuments representing a fundamental break with the past and the development of new perceptions of landscape.
  • Current Debates in Central Mediterranean Prehistory. This topic provides an in-depth and advanced knowledge of current research, knowledge and debates in the prehistory of the Central Mediterranean region. It makes particular reference to case-studies of primary archaeological data (ranging from the Iceman of the Italian Alps to the temples of the Maltese islands) and relevant specialist literature. It covers the full range of prehistoric periods: from the hunter-gatherers of the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, to the transition to agriculture in the Early Neolithic, to the traditional communities of the Neolithic, to the re-invention of tradition in the Copper Age, and the new world orders of the Bronze Age.
  • Preservation of Archaeological Remains In Situ: explores how we preserve archaeological remains (sites and artefacts) in situ and the ethical issues raised in dealing with sites as diverse as aboriginal rock shelters and wrecks in the English Channel. Covers: the extent and nature of the degradation processes seen at these sites; the means of recording and describing these decay processes; the legal and economic methods used to protect these sites and their artefacts; the physical and chemical methods used to preserve these sites and their artefacts; the methods used for restoring these sites and worrying about how far you should go with restoration. We will also try and gain a clear understanding of the chemistry, biology and physical nature of the burial environment and decay processes of a range of materials. There will be an emphasis on the physical practicalities of these issues, we will, however, not be exploring any aspect of conserving artefacts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Using one of the following topics as available, students will have:
  • Palaeolithic Britain in Regional Context: Developed a critical knowledge of the key sites, sequences (geological, faunal, floral), artefacts and environmental data of Palaeolithic Britain, as well as an understanding of the lifestyle of the different human species involved.
  • People, sets and fragments in Balkan prehistory: Developed a deeper understanding of the theory of persons, objects and their inter-relationships; increased their critical awareness of mortuary archaeology using case-studies; deepen their understanding of the nature and causes of artefact variability.
  • Social space and community organisation in Balkan prehistory: Gained a critical understanding of concepts of social space; developed in-depth skills in the understanding of social interpretations of the domestic domain; achieved a critical understanding of social networks and their importance in cultural development; evaluated competing theoretical interpretations of the material.
  • Britain and Ireland in the Age of Stonehenge: Developed a critical knowledge of the different classes of British/Irish Neolithic-Bronze Age sites, artefacts, environmental data and chronological indicators; analysed comparable evidence from other areas of North-west Europe; acquired an appreciation of the diversity of regional sequences; Evaluated competing theoretical interpretations of this material.
  • Art and Archaeology of the European Upper Palaeolithic: Developed a critical knowledge of European Upper Palaeolithic and styles of Upper Palaeolithic prehistory art; acquired an appreciation of the diversity of regional sequences; grasped a range of current theories in archaeology for the study of art.
  • Iron Age Britain in its European context: Developed a critical knowledge of the different classes of British Iron Age sites, artefacts, environmental data and historical evidence; analysed comparable evidence from other areas of North-west Europe; acquired an appreciation of the diversity of regional sequences; evaluated competing theoretical interpretations of this material.
  • Hunting and Gathering: Developed a detailed understanding of the role of ethnography in anthropology and archaeology; have gained an understanding of hunter-gatherer adaptation and economy; show a critical appreciation of hunter-gatherer survival and social change, past and present, and the ability to apply a wide range of models to the archaeological record.
  • Environmental Archaeology of the North Atlantic Islands: Developed the ability to demonstrate critical understanding of the main chronological tools applied to the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental record in the North Atlantic Islands; understood the deployment and interpretation of various environmental applications used to reconstruct the environment and economies of the later prehistoric and Norse periods in the region; have a working knowledge of the range of environmental techniques that can be employed in modern archaeological excavations in the region; be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature in archaeological and environmental science in the region.
  • Neolithic Monuments in Atlantic Europe: Developed an understanding of the range of theoretical approaches to prehistoric monuments; have critically engaged with the main bodies of evidence and interpretation; have developed a critical awareness of the manner in which prehistoric monuments have been excavated and published; have studied and evaluated specific case studies.
  • Current Debates in Central Mediterranean Prehistory: Gained an in-depth and advanced knowledge of current research, knowledge and debates in the prehistoric archaeology of the Central Mediterranean region; critically engaged with case-studies of primary archaeological data (extending geographically from the Alps to the Maltese islands, and covering the full range of prehistoric periods) and relevant specialist literature; developed an understanding of different archaeological approaches to Central Mediterranean prehistory.
  • Preservation of Archaeological Remains In Situ: Acquired a detailed knowledge of the history of the legal and physical protection of archaeological remains; acquired an understanding of the ethical issues involved in preservation; developed an appreciation of the nature of the burial environment; developed a detailed understanding of the physical strategies (reburial, display, shelters, maintenance) and legal mechanisms currently used for preserving archaeological remains; become familiar with the issues involved in enacting social, legal, physical, biological and chemical protection of archaeological remains in the modern heritage industry environment.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will have acquired an appreciation of the complexity and diversity data available on different temporal/spatial scales, have gathered relevant data and evaluated competing interpretations of available materials and data.
Key Skills:
  • Students will have developed independent research and learning skills.

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

  • Core content is delivered through instructor-led lectures also attended by Level 3 undergraduates, and a mixture of instructor-led and student-led tutorials/seminar classes dedicated to Level 4 (MA) students.
  • Instructor-led tutorials/seminar classes are small group learning environments which are interactive. They can: go over material from lectures; explain and discuss complex interpretations, theories and ideas; share opinions on set readings; or discuss a case study in depth.
  • Student-led tutorials/seminars can: require students to present to the group on essay topics, readings or case studies.
  • Lectures, instructor-led seminars and reading lists initiate students into various topics and provide guidance for them on readings, including archaeological reports, synthetic and theoretical literature.
  • There is an emphasis on developing critical reading through seminar discussion, but also on independent exploration and reading, aimed at building the critical appraisal and independent research skills in the intended learning outcomes.
  • Summative essays assess the grasp of material and ideas covered in the courses, ability to describe material, formulate problems and explain issues clearly in writing, evidence of critical and inquisitive thinking, and development of independent research and reading.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Normally weekly 1 hour 9
Tutorials 10 Normally weekly 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 281
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,000 words 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

The preparation achieved in the module RSS that precedes this module is considered to be sufficient formative preparation for the summative assignments in this module.


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


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