What would it be like to handle the bones of your relatives? Or fashion them into jewellery? Do different grave goods accompanying men and women, mean they had the same genders as the modern world? Or were Bronze Age warriors more interested in how they looked, than violence? While long studied monumental architecture can give the impression that Prehistoric burial was just about the elites, new methods have revealed that we are only just getting to grips with the complexity of funerary practices in the past. Penny’s teaching on Later Prehistory has been described as “fun, interesting and intellectually stimulating”, while about her teaching on Funerary Archaeology, students have said “Penny is incredibly enthusiastic about her subject and it rubs off on the students”.
|A||Autumn Term 2022-23|
Special Topics focus upon the archaeology of a well defined time, space or theme and the modules seek to allow students, in small groups, to focus upon primary source material and to apply to it the theoretical and thematic perspectives learned over your first and second years. The aim is to facilitate the acquisition of deeper knowledge of one aspect of the past than has been possible in more general courses.
Specifically this module aims to:
Introduce the broad range of burial practices in later prehistory in Europe from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, including inhumations, cremations, secondary burial rites, and monumental architecture.
Evaluate the appropriateness of the current scientific methods and theoretical approaches applied to burial evidence.
Critically assess the key interpretations, and their limitations, of funerary practices in issues of gender, personhood and social identity, social organisation and inequality, and belief systems and cultural change.
Evaluate the primary data and evidence through the use of case studies, excavation reports and the scientific literature.
By the end of the module the students will be able to:
In this module, we will explore why death and burial is prominent in the archaeological record for Later Prehistory (Neolithic to Iron Age). We will examine how new techniques are opening up new avenues of interpretation, but also have limitations. The module will also explore how easily the evidence can be misused in modern political debates about identity and belonging, and challenge you to suggest your own interpretations.
The lectures and seminars will take a thematic approach, exploring an issue relating to funerary archaeology in later prehistory through comparing and contrasting different cases studies. Drawing on a range of evidence from across Europe, we will explore the application of ethnography to interpret death and burial; landscapes and monuments; identities and grave goods; treatment of the body from inhumation, cremation, to disarticulation and secondary burial rites; ancient DNA and isotopic studies; social inequalities and structures; and the evidence for deviant burial rites. Case studies will come from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, introducing you to the major sites and types of evidence found, found from the iconic monuments of Neolithic Britain to the Iron Age Bog Bodies of the Iron Age. We will also explore some case studies that you may be less familiar with, giving you the chance to explore some of the less well known, but no less fascinating aspects of European Prehistory.
Content warning: this course will contain images of human remains throughout, as well as graphic discussion of varied treatments of the deceased. Themes of mourning and grief will be raised.
|Task||Length||% of module mark|
Essay 3500 words
|Task||Length||% of module mark|
Essay 3500 words
Formative: 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.
Croucher, K. 2012. Death and Dying in the Neolithic Near East. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cummings, V. 2017. The Neolithic of Britain and Ireland. London and New York: Routledge.
Fokkens, H. and Harding, A. 2013. The Oxford handbook of the European Bronze Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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.