Module Catalogue 2024/25

ARA3118 : Early Prehistoric Europe: Origins and transformations (Inactive)

ARA3118 : Early Prehistoric Europe: Origins and transformations (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Chantal Conneller
  • Lecturer: Dr Eline Van Asperen
  • 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 aims to give students an advanced understanding key transformations in human society from the first appearance of Homo sapiens in Europe to the end of the Mesolithic (c40,000-4000BC). This vast periods of time encompasses dramatic transformations in society, beliefs, climate and landscape.

The course will examine a number of the key debates and themes for this period, such as the extinction of the Neanderthals, Upper Palaeolithic art, the emergence Mesolithic cemeteries and human responses to dramatic climate change. We will think critically about approaches to origins research, and the impact of early prehistory on the present. Lectures will explore how early prehistorians deal with the fragile and fragmentary archaeological record for this period (human fossils, stone tool, animal remains) to understand the big issues of the time. The course will explore how archaeologists have dealt with this ephemeral evidence to produce rich and varied accounts of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic life.


• To develop students’ understanding of the key issues and debates the European Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic.
• To familiarise students with the material remains of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic life and the historical context of its interpretation.
• To introduce students to the methodologies and theoretical approaches used by archaeologists to address this material and the problems that these pose.
• To familiarise students with the major environmental changes of the period.
• To enable students to think critically about the socio-political aspects of origins research

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus may vary slightly from year to year, but the following is indicative of the module structure:
      1. Themes: Introduction, Quaternary environments and climate change
      Practical (1 hr) Ice Age animals
      2. Themes: The emergence of Modern Humans, Interaction and extinction
      Seminar (1hr) Debate: Sapiens v Neanderthals
      3. Themes: The Aurignacian: origins of art and adornment? Venuses and vengeful spirits: The Gravettian
      Seminar (1hr). Gravettian burials
      4. Themes: Life in the Ice Age,‘A cavalcade of animals’: The Magdalenian apogee of cave art
      Seminar (1hr) The Venus figurines
      5. Themes: The reoccupation of northern Europe, Ice Age Fauna
      Seminar (1hr) Interpreting cave art
      6. Themes: What is the Mesolithic? Sea-level rise and environmental change
      Seminar (1hr) Shamanism

      7. Themes: Mesolithic cemeteries, Alternative mortuary traditions: extended processes
      Seminar (1hr) Death, bodies and identities
      8. Themes: The Early Mesolithic in Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany, Complex hunter-gatherers of the Late Mesolithic
      Seminar (1hr) Social Complexity
      9. Themes: The Mesolithic in Britain, Ireland and Northern France
      Seminar (1hr) Mesolithic houses

10. Themes: The Mesolithic in southeast Europe
Practical session


Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On completion of this course students will be able to:
• Have a nuanced understanding of the key features in the development of human society during the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods.
• Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the main types of archaeological evidence drawn upon to understand the period and the historical context of its interpretation.
• Demonstrate a clear understanding of environmental change and a nuanced understanding of its effect on human societies at a variety of scales.
• Think critically about the socio-political effects of origins research

Intended Skill Outcomes

On completion of this course students will be able to:

• Analyse and evaluate a variety of competing interpretations of the archaeological evidence.
• Debate and critically reflect on and evaluate arguments around hotly debated archaeological issues.
• Interpret archaeological evidence independently and imaginatively
• Integrate specific archaeological evidence with broader ideas and debates
• Recognize the most important Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic artefact types

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:002 lectures per week apart from final week when fieldtrip is running
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical11:001:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:00Guided reading from course handbook and online materials - 3hrs per week
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities82:0016:00Reading for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00Fieldtrip, conditions permitting
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00Drop in for research proposal feedback
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study461:0046:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
ARA8118Early Prehistoric Europe: Origins and transformations
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

A series of subject-specific lectures will provide a detailed outline of key transformations in human society during the period with the impact of environmental change highlighted. Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to explore key debates in greater depth and in particular have been designed to encourage students to interpret archaeological evidence in an imaginative manner, and to critically explore the socio-political effects of origins research. Seminars, structured round small group work and discussion and including a formal debate, provide an opportunity for teamwork, peer-review and oral presentation. A practical and a fieldtrip will permit students to explore key artefacts and sites, and encourage different ways of learning.

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 on Upper Palaeolithic topic
Research proposal1A401500 words research proposal
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
Written exercise1MOne to one session providing formative feedback on aims and objectives of research proposal. 200 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessment will permit students to explore module themes through independent research, build arguments from the evidence of the period, critically reflect on key debates and develop their writing style. The essay is designed for students to focus on key debates in the Upper Palaeolithic, critically assess competing interpretations and draw on archaeological evidence to evaluate arguments and offer original interpretations. The research proposal allows students to focus in detail on an iconic Mesolithic site or set of materials, to evaluate their significance and offer their own proposal for future research, testing their knowledge of the material, as well as imagination and originality. Formative assessment involves oral feedback on ideas for the research proposal and a discussion of how to frame this.

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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