Accessibility statement

World Archaeology I: Alpine Landscape Archaeology - ARC00062I

« Back to module search

  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Kevin Walsh
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module will adopt a holistic approach, considering human-environment interactions from the Mesolithic to the Post Medieval period in the Alps. 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • To explain the development of human lifeways in the Alps from the Mesolithic to the Post-Medieval Period via a review and discussion of a wide range of archaeological evidence (sites, artefacts) and palaeoenvironmental evidence (geoarchaeology, palynology, isotopes, sedimentary DNA)
  • To explain the importance of geography and (palaeo)environment in the analysis of human-environment interaction in the Alps
  • To consider how archaeologists exploit and integrate cultural and scientific data-categories in the creation of comprehensive analyses of past human lifeways

This module will adopt a holistic approach, considering the way interdisciplinary research allows us to develop an image of how people adapted to these often harsh environments. While a range of scientific (paleoenvironmental, biological) evidence will be referred to in this module, we will also consider “orthodox” archaeological data. Therefore, this module will be suitable for both BA and BSc students.

Module learning outcomes

 By the end of this module students should:

  • Possess an understanding of how people have lived and worked in the   Alps from the   to the post-medieval period
  •  possess an understanding of the physical geography and (palaeo)environmental trajectories of alpine environments
  • appreciate why a (palaeo)environmental perspective is essential in the reconstruction of past human-lifeways in alpine landscapes
  • appreciate how today’s alpine landscapes are the product of a complex series of human-environment interactions that span the last 10,000 years

Module content

In the 1700s, Jean-Jacques Rousseau celebrated the Alps as the embodiment of the victory of nature over the “horrors” of civilization – This module will assess this rather romantic notion of alpine landscape development; a notion that is founded on the idea that people have had minimal role in the evolution of these harsh, and in many ways, unforgiving environments.

While there is a long history of research at lower altitudes across the European Alps, research in Europe’s most important mountain range has suffered from a lack of work in the higher-altitude zones. The last two decades have witnessed a significant increase in higher altitude research, thus helping us complete the picture of how these complex landscapes developed over time. This module will present a chronological overview of activity in the Alps from the Mesolithic through to the post-medieval period. After reviewing the complexity of hunting and gathering in alpine environments, the module will then consider evidence for the movement of farmers into the alpine valleys and the gradual incursions into the higher altitudinal zones. Moving into the chalcolithic, we will consider what Otzi, the “Ice Mummy”, tells us about life in the Alps at this time. Around the edges of the Alps, the world-famous lake villages were established during this period, and many were inhabited into the Iron Age.  These enigmatic villages are now a network of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The development of copper mining and high altitude pastoralism are important themes for the study of Bronze Age societies in the Alps. The complex network of economic and social relationships within and beyond the Alps established during the Bronze Age were a preface to the emergence of the famous Iron Age cultures; Hallstatt and La Tene. This is a period when the Alps were a core zone within European socio-economic networks. We will then consider how Roman control of the Alps manifests itself in the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental record; this will, however, be prefaced by a review of the evidence for Hannibal’s infamous traverse of the alpine massif. The final lectures will consider how alpine economies developed during the medieval period, how new social systems influenced the development of key and industrial activities - from cheese production to metallurgy. We will end the module with a review of how human activities over the last 8000 years have influenced the alpine landscape that is so popular with tourists today; a landscape that is now undergoing a profound transformation as the tourist industry reconfigures these enigmatic and sensitive landscapes.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written and verbal feedback will be given within twenty working days. Working days exclude University closure days (customary leave days between Christmas and New Year and public holidays/statutory holidays).

Indicative reading

No key texts as this module will journal articles with some book chapters.

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