Mesolithic Europe

Module leader: Stephanie Piper

Overview

The Mesolithic has often been viewed as a stagnant period in European prehistory, a sort of hangover from the Ice Age, awaiting revitalisation by a Neolithic revolution from the Near East, and marking a pause between the great formative developments of biological and cultural evolution in the Palaeolithic era, and the new social and economic structures that swept across Europe with the spread of farming. During the past decade there has been an explosion of interest and new work in the Mesolithic, and a general realisation that the four-to-five millennia of the Mesolithic period, so far from being a period of stagnation or decline, were characterised by wide-ranging cultural innovation, social variability and change, which laid the foundations for the technological, social and economic developments that came later. Dramatic changes of climate, environment and sea level in the wake of de-glaciation provided new opportunities and challenges. Colonisation of new territory and new types of environments across Europe, facilitated by new technologies of travel and resource extraction, took place on a scale perhaps as great as anything experienced before or later in prehistory. At the same time there is a growing body of evidence for a rich ceremonial, symbolic and ritual life associated with burial rites and the marking of territory, which anticipates the dominance of these themes in Neolithic and later periods. This is a period of prehistory which brings into focus in a unique way the macro-historical concerns of large-scale economic and environmental change with the micro-historical concerns of social organisation, art and the texture of the local landscape.

Aims

The aims of this module are to develop a knowledge and appreciation of this rich and newly developing archaeological record, and to engage in critical exploration of a range of themes such as settlement, economy, technology, burial practices and ritual that have come into sharper focus with new work and new ideas.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate that they are familiar with the literature on the archaeology of Mesolithic Europe
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, ethical and methodological issues related to the archaeological study of Mesolithic Europe
  • 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
Star Carr wooden platform