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Special Topic: Death and Burial in Later Prehistory - ARC00075H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Penny Bickle
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module will cover some key scientific and theoretical debates in Archaeology focusing on burial records of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Europe. 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • 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.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module the students will be able to:

  • demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of death and burial in the later prehistory of Europe (with a focus on the Neolithic and Bronze Age).
  • be aware of the scientific methods and theoretical approaches applied to burial evidence in later prehistory.
  • critically assess and discuss the key interpretations and their limitations
  • critically evaluate the primary data and evidence
  • communicate an in-depth, logical and structured argument, supported by archaeological evidence

Module content

The purpose of the special topic is to allow students to study the archaeology of a well defined time, space or theme in a small seminar group. This enables them to come to grips with primary source material (material and written, as appropriate) and to apply to it the theoretical and thematic perspectives learned over your first and second years, so as to acquire a deeper knowledge of one aspect of the past than has been possible in more general modules.

The burial record of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Europe provides a fantastic chance to engage in depth with some of the key scientific and theoretical debates in Archaeology. The lectures and seminars will focus on a thematic approach, debating issues of identity such as gender, treatment of the body and belief systems, social organisation and violence, culture change and spread. We will examine how new scientific techniques are opening up new avenues of interpretation, but also have limitations and can be misused in modern political debates about identity and belonging. The module will explore the impact funerary architecture had on the landscapes of the Neolithic and Bronze Age, as well as the varied styles of inhumation, cremation and secondary burial rites practised. 


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 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

Bickle, P. and Whittle, A. (eds). 2013. The First Farmers of Central Europe: Diversity in LBK Lifeways. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

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.

Fowler, C., Harding, J. and Hofmann, D. (eds). 2015. The Oxford handbook of Neolithic Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thomas, J. 2013. The birth of Neolithic Britain: an interpretive account. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Parker Pearson, M., Jay, M., Chamberlain, A., Sheridan, A. and Evans, J. 2019. The Beaker People: Isotopes, mobility and diet in prehistoric Britain. Oxford: Oxbow books.

Whittle, A. 2003. The Archaeology of People: Dimensions of Neolithic life. London: Routledge.

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

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