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Beginnings: The Archaeology of Prehistory


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Tim Reynolds
  • Assessment: two essays of 2500 words and a three-hour examination; at least 60% attendance also required

Module description

This module addresses key issues in the study of prehistory, including the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age. Prehistory is often described as 95% of human history; the early part of the module will explore how this is inaccurate - it is more important than that! It is the story of how we actually became human.

The course explores the themes of settlement and mobility, the character of landscapes, deposition of the dead and of artefacts, social identities and contact between groups. In later periods the module will also examine the architecture and significance of monuments and houses. Other related themes to be explored include prehistoric technology and subsistence.

The course covers a long period of archaeological time during which ways of life changed radically, but it unifies the study of prehistory through an emphasis on the relations people in the prehistoric past had with their landscapes, with objects and with each other. More specifically, issues covered will include mobility and the treatment of the dead in the Mesolithic; sedentism and the construction and domestication of the landscape, together with monumentality and the reproduction of social relationships in the Neolithic; and the impact of metallurgy on exchange and deposition, the rise of individual identity and the changing character of landscapes in the Bronze Age.

In addition, the course will introduce you to the critical evaluation of the archaeological evidence for life in prehistory, and of the approaches and methods archaeologists have used to understand it.