AR1P2-Primates to Pyramids: an introduction to world prehistory

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Rob Hosfield


Summary module description:
This module introduces students to the developments and changes in pre-modern human (hominin) and modern human societies, from our evolutionary split with the ancestor of modern chimpanzees between 6–7 million years ago, to the appearance of the first farming communities and the earliest civilizations over the last 10,000 years. Evidence and case studies are drawn from across the world. Team-taught lectures introduce the key periods, themes, and issues, while artefact- and fossil-handling and evidence-based seminars promote understanding of aspects of early prehistoric material culture and technology, and hominin evolution. The module is assessed through coursework (one essay and one short assignment) and a summer examination.

Preparatory Reading
Fagan, B. & Durrani, N. 2016. People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory (14th edition). Routledge: Abingdon. Chapter 1.
Greene, K. & Moore, T. 2010. Archaeology: An Introduction (5th edition). London: Routledge. Chapter 1.
Scarre, C. 2013. The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies (3rd Edition). London: Thames & Hudson. Chapter 1.

This module aims to provide students with fundamental knowledge of the development of human societies from our earliest ancestors through the origins and expansion of agriculture to the rise and fall of the world's first civilisations.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able:

  • to identify major sites, hominin species, material culture, chronologies, and/or key archaeologists for the geographical areas and prehistoric periods covered;
  • to outline and evaluate major areas of controversy in prehistoric archaeology, with reference to the key supporting evidence;
  • to identify basic technologies and typologies of prehistoric lithic (stone) artefacts;
  • to evaluate and interpret prehistoric material culture;
  • to assemble and synthesise prehistoric archaeological evidence and interpretations in structured writing.

Additional outcomes:
This module aims to enhance (1) the communication skills of students through seminar participation, (2) students' awareness of problem-solving through both written work and seminar participation, and (3) students' participation in team-working through seminars and the field visit.

Outline content:
The content is organised chronologically and by broad themes. It begins by presenting the evidence for the evolution of the earliest humans (hominins) in Africa. Major controversies exist over the interpretation of this evidence and the lifestyles of our earliest human ancestors. For example, were they scavengers or hunters? Then we outline the evidence for the dispersal of hominins across Asia and Europe from around 1.8 million years ago. Further controversy surrounds the subsequent evolution and extinction of the Neanderthals in Western Europe and the Near East, and their relationship with modern humans, Homo sapiens. The anatomical and cultural evidence for this relationship and the emergence of modern humans is reviewed, including the appearance of art, ritual and complex technology. A major change occurs around 10-12,000 years ago, with the emergence of agricultural societies in restricted areas of the world, e.g. the Near East, Egypt and/or China. In these regions complex state societies with urban centres, ceremonial monuments, high population densities, class structures and early forms of writing develop within a few thousand years. The evidence for these societies is outlined and competing interpretations of their rise and fall are presented. Elsewhere in the world agricultural societies emerged and changed at different rates. We follow the development of such societies in Europe from around 9,000-2,000 years ago. The major focus is on social change, as shown in the construction and use of ritual monuments, the use of mortuary rituals to highlight social differences, and the development of exchange and trade networks.

Global context:
This module explores the global origins, dispersal and development of the human species over the last 7 million years, using examples and case studies from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australasia, and Europe.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Autumn Term: Nineteen one hour lectures; one essay return tutorial; three artefact/fossil-handling seminars and one evidence-based seminar; one study visit to a relevant location. Summer Term: three illustrated lectures and one revision session.

As a 20 credit module, Primates to Pyramids should involve 200 hours of study time: attending lectures and seminars, general background reading, reading for your essay and short assignment, essay writing (and re-writing!), completing the short assignment, revision, and sitting the exam. You should therefore expect the following sort of workload:

- 37 hours: Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (lectures & seminars);
- 80 hours: General background reading and note-taking from key texts for each week’s topic(s) - i.e. 8 hours per week;
- 30 hours: Reading for, preparation of, and writing your essay;
- 10 hours: Reading for, and completion of, the short assignment;
- 41.5 hours: Revision (Summer Term);
- 1.5 hours: Examination (Summer Term).

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 19 3
Seminars 4 2
Tutorials 1
Fieldwork 8
Guided independent study 118 45
Total hours by term 150.00 50.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 40
Set exercise 10

Other information on summative assessment:
Students will write one essay of c. 2000 words, worth 40%, and complete one brief assignment, worth 10%. These must be submitted in the Autumn Term on dates set by the Department. Essay feedback will be provided on-line and in seminars at the end of the Autumn Term.

Formative assessment methods:
On-line quizzes are provided through Blackboard, enabling students to self-assess their knowledge and understanding during the first half of the module. Oral feedback will also be given during artefact-handling and evidence-based seminars.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    A 90 minute exam to be sat in the summer term (50% of the module mark)
    There will be an exam revision and preparation session in the summer term (see timetable for details). Mock exam questions for you to practise on will be made available on Blackboard at around the same time.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-assessment in August/September.

    (Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements [i.e. re-submission of coursework and re-examination], even if they have previously passed one of those elements.)

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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