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Mesolithic Funerary Archaeology - ARC00081M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Steph Piper
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module will investigate the archaeology of Mesolithic funerary practices. It will examine the claim for the development of the first cemeteries in Europe, and consider the broad range of mortuary practices such as inhumation, secondary burial, cremation, and skull nests. We will also discuss variation in grave goods and the ways in which this collective evidence might provide insights into identity, social relationships, and belief systems, including animism and shamanism.

Students’ feedback about the module have praised the range of topics, and discussion-focussed style of the module, which allowed them to share different points of view. They found the lectures very informative, and said that the opportunity to develop presentation skills was a confidence-building experience.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To critically examine the evidence for burial practices in the Mesolithic and how these are interpreted

  • To develop research, analytical and presentational skills

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will

  • Have a good understanding of the different ways in which the dead were treated in Mesolithic Europe

  • Be able to critically evaluate the evidence for the emergence of cemeteries

  • Have a good understanding of potential belief systems such as shamanism

  • have developed their writing skills through assessed essays

  • have presented research through seminar presentations

Module content

The module will take a thematic approach, which will be introduced in the first session. During the seminar for the introductory week, we will also look at how to develop critical interpretative skills.

In the following weeks, we will work through aspects of Mesolithic funerary evidence in increasing detail. We will begin with the broad theme of landscapes, before considering cemeteries, the varied treatments of the body, and the importance of grave goods to individuals.


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

Feedback will be available within 6 weeks

Indicative reading

Conneller, C. (2011) The Mesolithic. In T. Insoll (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp.131-153.

Nilsson Stuz, L. (2014) Mortuary practices. In V. Cummings, P. Jordan, and M. Zvelebil (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Pp. 712-728.

Schulting, R.J. (1998) Creativity’s coffin: innovation in the burial record of Mesolithic Europe. In S.J. Mithen (ed.). Creativity in Human Evolution and Prehistory. London: Routledge. pp. 203–226.

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.