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Assessed Seminars: Neanderthals - ARC00013H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Penny Spikins
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

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.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21 to Summer Term 2020-21

Module aims

Assessed Seminars seek to develop an understanding of a specialist topic (particularly a critical understanding of the key themes, approaches and opinions). In doing so students should be able to improve their knowledge of the subject area (through reading and preparation for their own seminar, their seminar contributions and involvement in the seminars) and also have the opportunity to develop their skills in chairing a seminar, presenting material and being involved in discussion (including thinking on their feet about the topic being discussed, how to engage interest in the topic and stimulate debate).

Specifically this module aims to

 

  • Develop your knowledge and understanding of the evidence for Neanderthal occupation of Europe (from biological or cultural perspectives) 

  • Develop your critical perspective on interpretations of Neanderthal cognition, behaviour and culture 

  • Develop and understanding of the similarities or differences between Neanderthals and modern humans and how these have been approached in the literature.

Module 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, methodological and ethical issues related to the archaeological study of Neanderthals

  • show familiarity with a range of case studies from different parts of the world

  • 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 on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars

Module content

We will consider Neanderthals from several different perspectives - the evolutionary and biological, that of social relationships and that of cultural behaviours, and draw out potential seminar topics such as energy use, robusticity, reproduction, cognition, communication and language, childhood, technology, subsistence practices, art, mortuary practices community cohesion and many others besides. We will also consider the demise of Neanderthals (with interbreeding), and the potential reasons for this from the structural elements of Neanderthal demography to the rather more random potential effects of infectious diseases or unique adaptations or cultural practices.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Critique
N/A 15
Essay/coursework
Seminar Contribution
N/A 5
Essay/coursework
Seminar Worksheet
N/A 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Chaired Seminar
N/A 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 1
N/A 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 2
N/A 20

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Critique
N/A 15
Essay/coursework
Seminar Worksheet
N/A 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Chaired Seminar
N/A 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 1
N/A 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 2
N/A 20

Module feedback

Formative: There will be group discussions and opportunities for one-to-one feedback as you prepare for your summative assessments.

Summative: Assessed Seminar modules are exempt from the University's Policy on Feedback Turnaround Time owing to the nature of this assessment (in that the seminar performance is the subject of your critique).  Marks for all elements of the assessment will be uploaded to your e:vision account (your personal University of York online services account) within four weeks of submission of the final reflective critique. 

 

Indicative reading

Finlayson, C. (2019). The Smart Neanderthal: Brid catching, cave art and the cognitive revolution, Oxford University Press

Wragg Sykes, R. (2020). Kindred: Neanderthal life, love, death and art. Bloomsbury Sigma. 

Harvati, K. (2015) Neanderthals and their contemporaries, in W. Henke and I. Tattersall (eds.) Handbook of Palaeoanthropology 2243-2279

Detailed reading for the module will be available via YorkShare (the University's virtual learning environment). When you have enrolled on a module, you will be able to access the full reading list.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students