Accessibility statement

Neanderthals & Modern Humans in Early Europe


Module leader: Penny Spikins



Whatever image the word 'Neanderthal' conjures up for you - from club-wielding cave-dweller to gentle giant - Neanderthals hold a special fascination for almost everyone. Though a separate species, they were the contemporaries of modern humans like ourselves in Europe for around ten thousand years and the interaction between the two populations has been the topic of heated debate. The archaeological record has been used to suggest radical differences in behaviour such as markedly different hunting practices and subsistence needs, differences in the use of space, and from within sites to landscapes to connections across regions, differing experiences of childhood and family structure and changes in the use of language, art and symbolism, even to deep-rooted differences in cognitive abilities that go beyond simple 'intelligence'.

How different were Neanderthals and why did they die out? In these seminars we will explore some of the evidence for Neanderthal and modern human behaviour at the transition, address some of the key questions and encourage you to decide on your own interpretations.


The aim of this module is to develop knowledge of the evidence for Neanderthal and modern human occupation of Europe and to develop a critical perspective on interpretations of Neanderthal and modern human behaviour and the ‘transition’ to modern humans.

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 Neanderthals
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, ethical and methodological issues related to the archaeological study of Neanderthals
  • 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


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
Reconstruction of a Neanderthal child from Devil's Tower, Gibralter