Environmental Archaeology: A Landscape Perspective

ARC00015H

Module leader: Kevin Walsh

Overview

Landscape archaeology relies heavily on the use of evidence from the environmental sciences. Such evidence includes general models of climate change, palaeoecological evidence derived from palynology, land-snails, plant macrofossils and a range of other materials. Geoarchaeological evidence is also important: The study of topography, soils and sediments informs studies of landscape change; for example, how rivers changed their course, how coastlines either expanded or retracted, or how people have destroyed the soil system. This module will consider how these different forms of so-called scientific evidence can be incorporated with cultural evidence, such as settlement and artefact distributions, and can also consider theoretical perspectives, such as how people might have perceived environmental change in the past.

Past students have taken two broad approaches. They have often taken one particular landscape or place, and looked at the evidence for changes in the environment and the use of that place over time. Another approach is to take a landscape type; such as wetlands, or flood plains, and to look at a range of case studies from different examples of that landscape type from around the UK or abroad during one particular period. For example, how Neolithic people in the South of England, Scotland and Southern France exploited flood plains. The choice of subjects has been incredibly varied, and as long as you consider how environmental evidence is used by archaeologists in the study of landscape, the choice of specific topic is down to you.

Aims

The fundamental aim of these seminars is to allow students to build upon their existing knowledge of environmental archaeology (no matter how limited) and develop an awareness of how integrated approaches to the study of landscape and settlement can bring remarkable rewards for archaeologists. These seminars consider what environmental evidence can tell us about cultural processes in the past. The vast majority of the seminars over the past ten years have integrated the scientific evidence with broader, cultural archaeological information. We have even had seminars that consider theoretical perspectives! Issues of how people effect, and are affected by, climate change in both the prehistoric and historic periods, is one common theme. 

Learning outcomes

By completion of the module the successful participant will have demonstrated the ability to:

  • Demonstrate that they are familiar with the literature on the archaeology environmental and landscape archaeology
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical and methodological issues related to the archaeological study of environment and landscape
  • Show familiarity with a wide range of case studies
  • Demonstrate in depth knowledge of a topic of their choosing
  • Pick out the key issues in their chosen topic
  • Prepare a worksheet which sets out key reading and issues for presentation, debate and discussion, and support the group in the preparation of the seminar
  • Chair a seminar, engage interest in the topic, stimulate debate and structure discussion
  • Have a critical awareness of the process of collective debate on a specific topic
  • Be able to judge the general 'success' of the seminar, and to be able to reflect on this, through a written summary of a seminar
  • Present PowerPoint presentations on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars

Employability

In this module you will develop key skills in presentation and chairing which should be of immense value in your future careers:
  • Self management: in this module you need to develop the ability to take initiative and you will need the will to succeed! There will be a lot of self management required whilst you plan your topic through the spring term- you should be spending about 3-4 days a week on this module and balancing this with finalising your dissertation (and any other commitments)
  • Communication: communication skills are vital and they will be assessed- through the previous 2 years you will should have practised and developed these skills in order to present clear and succinct PowerPoints. Your writing skills will be tested further in your self assessment document. Most importantly, you will have the chance to chair a seminar and you will need to be able to judge when to listen to your team mates, and how to encourage and stimulate debate, particularly from quieter members of the group
  • Team working: it is essential you can bring the team together to tackle your topic in depth and to create a stimulating and enlightening debate. It may be a wise move to set up your own study groups.
  • Problem solving: you will be faced with a lot of reading and it is essential that you develop the skills for retrieving information from relevant sources as well as critical evaluation
  • Creativity and innovation: this module enables you to be creative in your ideas of what topic to develop and how you plan to run the seminar
  • World of work awareness: this module will set you up for similar situations in the world of work where you might need to chair a meeting and will have to keep the team to the point and to time- you should understand the pressures of such meetings and think about ways of coping with them
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: many of you will be considering the international dimensions of your chosen subject, and in many cases you might want to think about the diversity of issues from other cultures and countries, as well as ethical issues related to your research
  • Application of IT: you will be tested on your effective use of PowerPoint as well as word processsing skills. You will also be expected to use the internet effectively with your research
environmental landscape rhc