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Special Topic: The Neolithic of Britain and Ireland - ARC00080H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jim Leary
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

The Neolithic in Britain and Ireland is an iconic period, in turns inspiring and exciting, yet enigmatic and challenging. Beginning around 4000 cal BC it saw the transition from a hunter-gatherer way of life to a farming one that brought with it a series of cultural developments, from the introduction of pottery to the construction of monuments. This module will give you a wide-ranging understanding of this most fascinating period.

Related modules

A directed option - students must pick a Special Topic module and have a choice of which to take

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

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 examine the scholarly approaches to and range of evidence for the Neolithic period in Britain and Ireland.
  • To consider differing sources of evidence for understanding the Neolithic period in Britain and Ireland.
  • To develop research, analytical and communication skills.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of key theories and debates concerning the Neolithic period in Britain and Ireland
  • demonstrate an awareness of the history of research of the Neolithic period in Britain and Ireland
  • critically discuss and assess the limitations of the dataset
  • critically evaluate different lines of evidence and consider different temporal scales
  • communicate an in-depth, logical and structured argument, supported by relevant evidence and case studies

Module content

The Neolithic period in Britain, which began around 4000 cal BC and continued until the transition to metal over one and a half thousand years later, represents a key stage in our human story. It spans a period that saw the arrival of domesticated plants and animals, the construction of large timber halls, and the introduction of a rich material culture, including pottery vessels and polished stone axes. Throughout this time a suite of cultural and ideological changes swept through Britain and Ireland that still resonates today. These cultural developments also involved the construction of enormous ceremonial monuments, such as at Avebury, Stonehenge, and Silbury Hill, indicating a period of intense monumentality and profound change. In Britain and Ireland, the Neolithic period was the apogee of prehistoric monument building.

Our understanding of the Neolithic has advanced at an extraordinary speed in recent years, from new chronologies to new understandings of human migration through the study of ancient DNA. Focused around key excavations, this module will take you through this fascinating yet enigmatic period, and it will use the latest discoveries to explore patterns and connections between the monuments and the world around and above the people that constructed them.


Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Fear and Survival
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Fear and Survival
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders in class

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

  • Bradley, R. 2007. The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press.

  • Cummings, V. 2017. The Neolithic of Britain and Ireland. Taylor and Francis.

  • Thomas, J. & Ray, K. Neolithic Britain. The Transformation of Social Worlds. Oxford University Press.

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.