Module Catalogue 2018/19

ARA1028 : Prehistoric Britain

  • Offered for Year: 2018/19
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Chris Fowler
  • Lecturer: Dr Nicky Garland
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This course is designed to introduce you to the material, sites and communities that characterize the prehistoric archaeology of the British Isles. We will study these remains period by period, from the earliest human occupation in the British Isles to the Roman invasion.

This module aims:
•to provide a general grounding in the prehistoric archaeology of the British Isles;
•to emphasise the role of landscapes, archaeological sites and monuments, and material culture in how archaeologists interpret life in prehistoric Britain.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus, intended as a guide only; week-by-week topics may be slightly different to the following

1. Introduction Introduction to British prehistory.
Outline of module structure, seminars (including presentation advice), assessment, blackboard.

2. Palaeolithic Britain Palaeolithic Britain, Boxgrove

3. Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Britain Upper Palaeolithic and Earlier Mesolithic Britain

4. Earlier Mesolithic Case study: Changing interpretations of Star Carr

5. Later Mesolithic Later Mesolithic Britain

Seminar 1 GNM Neolithic and Bronze Age objects in the GNM galleries

6. The Mesolithic/Neolithic transition What do we mean by the Neolithic? Where did Neolithic products and practices comes from? The earliest Neolithic in Britain

Fieldtrip Off campus Visiting henge monuments and stone circles in Cumbria

7. Early Neolithic Earlier Neolithic Britain

Seminar 2 Debating the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition

8. Middle Neolithic Earlier to Middle Neolithic

9. Early and Middle Neolithic Case study: The Avebury region - Windmill Hill and West Kennet

10. Later Neolithic Later Neolithic Britain

Seminar 3 Writing essays on British prehistory: what makes a good essay? How to cite radiocarbon dates, and other conventions

11. Later Neolithic Case Study: Orkney - Barnhouse, Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar, Maes Howe

12. Chalcolithic/Beaker period/Early Bronze Age The British ‘Chalcolithic’ and the start of the Early Bronze Age: Beakers, burials and copper

13. Neolithic and early Bronze Age art Portable objects, passage grave art, open-air rock art and its reuse in early Bronze Age monuments

14. Early Bronze Age Early Bronze Age Britain: burials and barrows, cists and cairns; stone circles and henges revisited

15. Excavating Neolithic/early Bronze Age sites Examples: chambered cairns and early Bronze Age cremation deposits at Cairnderry and Bargrennan

Seminar 4: Locating, excavating and interpreting prehistoric sites. How to evaluate the evidence from prehistoric archaeological sites

16. Everyday life in the Middle and Later Bronze Age Middle and Later Bronze Age Britain: Re-evaluating the ‘disappearance’ of monuments; changing settlement and landuse patterns, changing ways of treating the dead

Seminar 5 Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts: object examination seminar

17. Ritual and religion in the Bronze Age Including Flag Fen, deposition of metalwork and ritual at settlements

18. Iron Age Early Iron Age Britain

Seminar 6 Iron Age artefacts

19. Iron Age Case study - Archaeology and ethnicity: was the Iron Age 'Celtic'?

20. Iron Age Later Iron Age Britain: Hillforts, oppida and settlement

Seminar 7 Iron Age bog bodies

21. Iron Age Later Iron Age Britain: Contact with the Roman world

22. Overview: Cosmology Interpreting cosmology from houses, monuments, burial practices and acts of deposition

23. Overview: Social organization Interpreting social relations, power relations, and identity

24. Revision Revision, questions, etc Seminar 8 (two groups): Review of essay feedback, exam preparation techniques

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1.       an outline of the past of Britain from prehistoric hunter-gatherers to the arrival of the Roman Empire;
2.       awareness of forms of artefacts, sites and landscapes characteristic of different periods of British prehistory;
3.       awareness of the range of evidence available to, and produced by, archaeological enquiries into the prehistoric past within the British Isles.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1.       the ability to relate material evidence to the interpretation of social and cultural phenomena;
2.       the ability to recognise a wide range of monuments and artefacts in the field or in museums;
3.       the ability to identify and utilise specialised archaeological publications including academic papers, fieldwork and excavation reports, and artifact catalogues;
4.       the ability to recognise how specific evidence is used to produce general interpretations.

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Data Synthesis : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Literacy : Assessed
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Assessed
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
  • Self Management
    • Self Awareness And Reflection : Present
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Goal Setting And Action Planning : Present
      • Decision Making : Present
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Innovation And Creativity : Present
      • Initiative : Present
      • Independence : Present
      • Problem Solving : Present
      • Adaptability : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Collaboration : Present
      • Relationship Building : Present
      • Leadership : Present
      • Negotiation : Present
      • Peer Assessment Review : Present
  • Application
    • Occupational Awareness : Present
    • Social Cultural Global Awareness : Present

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion721:0072:0045% of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading721:0072:0045% of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork17:007:00Field trip
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study161:0016:0010% of guided independent studies
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

At some seminars the students prepare a short description of key articles, and present these précis to the class as a whole, developing their analysis of texts and their groupwork and communication skills. This is not assessed summatively, but prepares them for writing their essay or an exam question, and provides an opportunity to practice these skills which are assessed in a number of modules later in the degree structure. Other seminars will involve other non-assessed activities and discussions. Key information is imparted en masse during lectures. The reading list clearly identifies key sources for private study, and will be supported by use of web-based resources co-ordinated through a Blackboard site.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A60Seen exam – essay questions provided two weeks in advance.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M402000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MGroups of around 4 students must prepare a 10-15 minute précis of a key text on the seminar topic.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Exam information: Seen exam – essay questions provided two weeks in advance.
Unseen exam – short answers/ multiple choice questions only to be seen on the day of the exam.

The first section of the module (Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) is assessed by a single essay. The exam will require the student to answer one essay question on the Bronze or Iron Age, and one other essay question which may cover any period of British prehistory, and in some cases ask them to discuss a theme across periods. Finally, there will be unseen short answer or multiple choice questions to measure expected knowledge outcomes across the breadth of the course. These will be taken together with the essay question part of the exam.

It is proposed to provide the exam essay questions two weeks in advance of the exam. It is anticipated that providing the exam questions in advance will promote thorough preparation and reading around the subjects chosen, reflecting the normal process of scholarship. The unseen short questions will ensure that breadth of knowledge in the key knowledge outcomes is assessed.

As part of this module students are required to participate in group work: seminar groups of around 4 students must prepare a 5 minute précis of a key text on the seminar topic. This is designed to give them a taste of giving a presentation, since a number of stage 2 and 3 modules include assessed presentations. Group presentations will be linked directly to some of the essay or exam questions provided in the aim that this will encourage students to read these texts and discuss them in seminars before writing their essays or preparing for the exam.

The above arrangements provide for a structured progression through the module content and a close connection between the material covered, the learning outcomes, and the assessment.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2018/19 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2018/19 entry will be published here in early-April 2018. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.