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

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Lisa-Marie Shillito
  • Lecturer: Dr Eric Tourigny, Dr Francesco Carrer
  • Technician: 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


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.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials121:0012:00Counts as contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical32:006:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading511:0051:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical71:007:00N/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/surgery21:002:00N/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.

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

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
Lab exercise1M7 x lab exercises: 1. Excel exercise Vostok data 2. Pollen analysis 1,2,3 3. Phytolith reference slides 4. Zooarchaeology exercise 5. Seeds and cereal grains exercise 6. Wood thin section exercise 7. Archaeobotanical fact finder
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 weekly lab exercises 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.

Reading Lists