Module Catalogue 2023/24

ARA2011 : Prehistoric Europe

ARA2011 : Prehistoric Europe

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Chris Fowler
  • Lecturer: Professor Chantal Conneller, Professor Andrea Dolfini
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



This course explores the archaeology of Europe from the appearance of the first people more than a million years ago to the Iron Age. This is a period that witnesses a number of key transformations: changes in human species, social organisation, new relationships with animals and the landscape and the use of new materials such as ceramics and metals. The module aims to give students a broad understanding the emergence of these changes across Europe and how they played out at a regional level. Through this we will address number of major issues and key debates that have arisen in the interpretation of the archaeology of this period. These include the extinction of the Neanderthals and the emergence of spiritual beliefs at the height of the last ice age; the adoption of the Neolithic and monumental architecture; the appearance of metal and associated social changes; population mobility and cultural interaction in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic; changes in understandings of the landscape, identity and death in the Bronze and Iron Age.

• To introduce students to key themes and debates in an archaeological understanding of European Prehistory.
• To familiarise students with the defining characteristics and the archaeological materials encountered in the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic (& Beaker period), Bronze Age and Iron Age periods.
• To introduce students to the approaches used by archaeologists to address this material and the problems that these pose.
• To provide students with an awareness of the regional variation involved in the way these key transformations were played out across Europe.
• To develop students’ ability to discuss the relationship between evidence and interpretation

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus may vary slightly from year to year, but the following is broadly indicative of the module structure:

1. The Lower Palaeolithic
Themes: The first people

2. The Neanderthals
Themes: The last days of the Neanderthals and the origins of modern humans

3. The Upper Palaeolithic
Themes: The origins of spirituality, Life in the Ice Age

4. The Mesolithic
Themes: Pioneers in the north, the first cemeteries

5. Early Neolithic 1
Themes: Neolithic settlements and subsistence

6. Early Neolithic 2
Themes Neolithic death and burial

7. The Chalcolithic and the origins of metallurgy

8. Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic
Themes: Cultural change, population mobility and social interaction in the third millennium – Yamnaya, Corded Ware and early Beaker communities

8. Bronze Age 1
Themes: Exploring Bronze Age hoarding practices, violence and warfare

9. Bronze Age 2
Themes: Death and cosmology

10. The Iron Age
Themes: The Iron Age in Northern Europe


Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

• Knowledge of the key debates in European Prehistory
• An appreciation of issues involved in origins research
• An understanding of the defining characteristics and the archaeological materials encountered in the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods.
• An understanding of cultural change and social transformations from the start of the Palaeolithic to the end of the Iron Age
• An awareness of the regional variation involved in the way these key transformations were played out across Europe.

Intended Skill Outcomes

• Ability to analyse and evaluate a variety of competing interpretations of archaeological evidence.
• To think independently and imaginatively
• To integrate specific archaeological evidence with broader ideas and debates
• To synthesise different kinds of archaeological evidence to produce accounts of the past

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture211:0021:00PiP
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:00Independent reading, based on reading list
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities102:0020:00Set reading for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops21:002:00poster workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00Fieldtrip to Museum
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study411:0041:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

A series of subject-specific lectures will provide a detailed outline of the key features and social changes encountered in European Prehistory. Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to explore key debates in greater depth and interpret archaeological material. A workshop on poster production will enable students to successfully complete assessment 2. A museum visit will help familiarise students with artefacts and materials specific to each period.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M602500 words
Poster1A401000 word upper limit
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Poster1MDraft poster
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The extended essay will provide experience of discussing subject-specific knowledge, including the relationship between evidence and interpretation, and encourage understanding, time management and literacy skills. The poster will test students' abilities to investigate specific case studies, drawing upon detailed archaeological evidence, and its relation to broader issues. It will test their ability to present evidence concisely and in an engaging manner. The formative assessment allows students to get oral feedback on their poster design, thus making them more confident in an unfamiliar assessment form before they produce the final version of the poster. All submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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