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Assessed Seminars: Environmental Archaeology: A Landscape Perspective - ARC00015H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Daryl Stump
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2020-21

Module summary

Assessments of the ways in which people have exploited the environment are obviously key in modern debates on climate and environmental change. Archaeologists have a significant contribution to make to these conversations. 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.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

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:

  • Allow students to build upon their existing knowledge of environmental archaeology (no matter how limited) 

  • Develop an awareness of how integrated approaches to the study of landscape and settlement can bring remarkable rewards for archaeologists. 

  • Consider what environmental evidence can contribute to our investigation of cultural processes in the past.

  • Assess how archaeologists integrate the environmental/scientific evidence with broader, cultural archaeological information. 

  • Consider theoretical perspectives that engage with the variety of ways in which people have contributed to, and been affected by climate change in the past.

Module learning outcomes

By completion of the module the successful participant should:

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

Module content

This module encourages students to consider how past peoples have been influenced by the environment and how people have caused changes in the environment. 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 starts with lectures and groups discussions where we consider how these different forms of so-called “scientific” evidence can be incorporated with cultural evidence, such as settlement and artefact distributions. We also consider theoretical perspectives, such as how people might have perceived environmental change in the past. 

After these preparatory sessions, students are guided in the choice of topic for their own seminar. 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.

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

Roberts, N. (2013) The Holocene: an environmental history. . Hoboken. Wiley.

French, C.A.I. (2003) Geoarchaeology in action [electronic resource]: studies in soil micromorphology and landscape evolution . ProQuest (Firm) (ed.). New York/London. Routledge.

Branch, N. (ed.) (2005) Environmental archaeology: theoretical and practical approaches . London. Arnold.

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.