Module Catalogue 2022/23

ARA2004 : Animals, Plants and People: an Introduction to Environmental Archaeology

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Lisa-Marie Shillito
  • Lecturer: Dr Francesco Carrer, Dr Eric Tourigny
  • Technician: Dr Eline Van Asperen
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
ARA1026Introduction to Archaeological Science
Pre Requisite Comment

For Archaeology Students (V400, VV14 and VV41) there is a pre-requisite of ARA1026: Introduction to Archaeological Science.

For Geography Students (F800, FH82 and L701) there is a pre-requisite of GEO1020: Introduction to Physical Geography or equivalent.

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



To introduce key concepts in the methods and themes of environmental archaeology and how it links with related discplines
To introduce students to practical skills in analysis of environmental proxies and data
To introduce students to the concept of multi-proxy approaches in the reconstruction of past landscapes and lifeways

Outline Of Syllabus

The natural environment provides the backdrop to human activity, and understanding the relationship between people and their environment is fundamental to understanding the development of societies. How did people interact with the environment and use natural resources? What influence did the environment have on cultural and economic development? This module introduces key themes in environmental archaeology including the origins of domestication and agriculture, the developments and impacts of pyrotechnology, and the links between climate change and human development. It provides an introduction to the major methods of environmental archaeology, including the analysis of microfossils, plant remains and animals bones. We will examine and critique ideas such as environmental determinism and the Anthropocene, and look at the relationship between archaeology and geography. Case studies may be drawn from current research and span a wide range of geographic and temporal scales, from early prehistory to the post-medieval periods.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Knowledge of common techniques in environmental archaeology
Understanding of key themes in environmental archaeology

Intended Skill Outcomes

The ability to use standard identification keys and reference collections to identify common environmental proxies used in archaeology
The ability to present and interpret environmental archaeology data
The ability to relate environmental evidence to wider archaeological questions

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials121:0012:00Counts as contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading511:0051:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical71:007:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities113:0033:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops42:008:00Computer cluster sessions
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study261:0026:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lecture materials provide the background information and overviews of the subject material, intended as a starting point for independent reading and research.
Practical and workshop activities provide training in the application of the methods and how they are used in archaeology.
Structured research and reading activities guide students through key reading and activities to reinforce 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
Essay1A502000 words
Report1A50Technical report 2000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Lab exercise1MWeek 1 Excel exercise Vostok data
Lab exercise1MPollen analysis 1, 2 & 3
Lab exercise1MZooarchaeology exercise
Lab exercise1MArchaeobotanical Fact Finder
Lab exercise1MCoprolites exercise
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

An essay will test written communication skills and the ability to relate their knowledge to key themes in environmental archaeology. It will develop key research skills, and skills in reading and writing.

The practical portfolio report will test skills in writing in a technical style, and the ability to recognise and interpret key environmental proxies studied in the course.

Formative assessment through lab exercises approximately every 2 weeks is designed to test skills in presenting and interpreting environmental data in preparation for the practical portfolio report.

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


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 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 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.