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Themes in Prehistory - ARC00015I

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Aleksandra McClain
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

The Themes in Prehistory module allows students to begin to engage in more detail with four time periods within the prehistoric era (Paleolithic to Iron Age). The module gives students the opportunity to dip in and out of time periods in order to explore key themes (settlement, symbolism, environment and ecology, and social relationships) which will run throughout the four blocks. Students will be asked to think critically about how each theme is materially manifested in each time period and how meanings changed depending on environmental, cultural, or social contexts, as well as to make links between themes in different time periods.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

Module aims

This module should:

  • Provide students with both a broader and more in-depth understanding of the prehistoric past, defined as periods before which societies had writing and documentation.

  • Make links between a range of prehistoric time periods through an examination of a series of important archaeological themes.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of prehistory
  • Construct and communicate an in-depth critical argument that relates at least two periods of prehistory
  • Communicate complex ideas, discuss and defend arguments in seminars and presentations
  • Collaborate and support one another in seminars

Module content

This module is divided up into 4 blocks of teaching; these are period- or context-based, and will change from year to year, but may include Middle Palaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. In each block, the key themes of settlement, symbolism, environment and ecology, and social relationships will be explored through a mixture of lectures and seminars. In seminars, students will be asked to give short presentations on specific topics alongside in-depth discussion of the archaeological and documentary evidence, interpretations, and cross-period and cross-theme links.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative essay is timed so that feedback coincides with release of summative essay questions. Presentations will be assessed formatively by PGWT seminar leaders, with immediate feedback via standard pro-formas. In addition, presentation slides are uploaded for summative assessment at the end of the term.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback


Presentations: Your tutor will provide written feedback for presentations in class, normally within one week of the presentation.  

Written work: The marker will share written feedback with you in a timetabled one-to-one meeting and you will have the opportunity to ask further questions about how to improve your work before your summative assessment. If you are unable to attend the feedback session, your tutor will share the formative feedback with you digitally.


Summative: Written feedback sheets will be uploaded to your e:vision account (your personal University of York online services account) within 20 working days of the submission deadline, along with your overall mark for the module. If you have any questions about your mark and/or your written feedback, you will be able to sign up for office hours with the marker.

Indicative reading

Spikins, P., Hitchens, G., Needham, A. 2017. ‘Strangers in a Strange Land? Intimate Sociality and Emergent Creativity in Middle Palaeolithic Europe’, in Warren, G., & Finlayson, B. (eds), The Diversity of Hunter-Gatherer Pasts, 132-147.

Milner, N., Conneller, C. & Taylor, B. (eds.) 2018. Star Carr, Vols 1 &2, York: White Rose University Press.

Lewis-Williams, D. & Pearce, D. 2005. Inside the Neolithic Mind, London: Thames and Hudson.

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.