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Mesolithic Life & Death - ARC00030M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jessica Bates
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This module focuses on Mesolithic people, how they lived their everyday lives and the varied ways they were treated in death. In exploring Mesolithic life and death, a wide range of different evidence will be explored, including environment and ecology, diet and foodways, structures and settlements, technology, landscapes of the dead, cremation, disarticulation, and grave goods. Teaching is balanced between indoor and outdoor classes, using a blend of lectures, seminars and practical workshops.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims:

  • To critically examine the ways in which Mesolithic lifeways and funerary practices are interpreted
  • To develop research and analytical skills through seminars, activities and workshops
  • To facilitate development of a range of important skills, including oral and written communication, critical analysis, and synthesis

Module learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a good knowledge and systematic understanding of Mesolithic lifeways and funerary practices
  • Evaluate critically current research and the ways in which dominant theoretical approaches in archaeology have impacted on Mesolithic research
  • Communicate complex ideas in an analytical framework through essay writing

Module content

The module explores how people lived and were treated in death during the Mesolithic period. In considering life, four main themes will be explored: human interactions with diverse environments, ecologies and landscapes; diet, foodways and attitudes to plants and animals; structures, their manufacture, configuration and use, organisation of sites, and mobility; and finally technology, including stone and organic tools and fire. In considering treatment in death, five main themes will be considered: the biological and social insights that can be extracted from skeletons and mortuary contexts; the varying landscapes of the dead, including water places, caves, and cemeteries, and potential significance; the use of cremation as a method of treating the dead and the possible implications; the use of disarticulation as a method of mortuary practice and the possible implications; and finally the use and significance of grave goods. A continually unfolding consideration of Mesolithic people and their social relations and worldviews will permeate these themes and be drawn together at the end of the course. In exploring Mesolithic life, our campus will be used as a classroom, learning outdoors via workshops and seminars taking place on our forested lakeside campus and at the York Experimental Archaeology Research (YEAR) Centre, supported by videos recorded by Mesolithic specialists from across the department discussing key themes. In exploring Mesolithic death, we return indoors where lectures and seminars will be supported by online activities.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Milner, N., Conneller, C. and Taylor, B., 2018. Star Carr Volume 1: A Persistent Place in a Changing World. York: White Rose University Press. DOI:

Milner, N., Conneller, C. and Taylor, B., 2018. Star Carr Volume 2: Studies in Technology, Subsistence and Environment. York: White Rose University Press. DOI:

Milner, N. and Woodman, P.C., 2005. Mesolithic Studies at the Beginning of the 21st Century. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

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.