ARMEPW-The Edge of the Pleistocene World: The Lower Palaeolithic Archaeology of North West Europe

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

Module Convenor: Dr Rob Hosfield


Summary module description:
This module will introduce you to, and develop your understanding of, the archaeology and hominins of the Lower Palaeolithic period in Western Europe. The module particularly emphasises: the material culture, fossil record and behavioural models of the Lower Palaeolithic period; the content and structure of the archaeological record; current debates and issues; and the unique challenges associated with the interpretation of a fragmented and heavily time-averaged archaeology. The module is taught through a combination of introductory lectures, directed reading-based discussion and presentation seminars, practical artefact-based sessions, and two field trips.

This module aims to provide you with a comprehensive knowledge of the Lower Palaeolithic of Western Europe (c. 900,000-250,000 BP), in terms of its chronology, hominins, material culture, key sites, spatio-temporal variability (including settlement histories) and the other evidence for hominin behaviour. You will also develop an understanding of the relationships between data resolution and past/current research questions, and the mapping of different analytical approaches and methods onto specific archaeological data sets. The problems of dealing with Palaeolithic data from secondary contexts, in particular the issues of chronological and spatial palimpsest assemblages, are also emphasised within this module.

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

  • To demonstrate a systematic and comprehensive understanding of the key sites, hominins, material culture, and other changes and events in the colonisation of Western Europe and/or the archaeological record of the Lower Palaeolithic in this region;
  • To critically assess current methodological approaches and interpretive frameworks, and explore potential alternatives;
  • To independently undertake critical reviews of the subject literature, and to present and debate your conclusions through written coursework and oral presentation;
  • To independently organise material and to articulate your arguments clearly through written coursework and oral presentation.

Additional outcomes:
This module develops your analytical and problem-solving skills for assessing and interpreting an incomplete archaeological record characterised by a unique set of challenges (e.g. the problems of spatio-temporal archaeological palimpsests and fragmented landscapes). Independent learning skills are developed through self-directed reading, and communication skills are developed through the discussion seminars and the assessed oral presentation.

Outline content:
The module focuses upon key themes in current studies of Lower Palaeolithic archaeology and hominins in Western Europe, including the earliest occupation of the region, settlement histories, hominin skeletal morphology and life history, the re-interpretation of traditional lithic industries (e.g. the Acheulean and the Clactonian), subsistence strategies, and the development of behavioural models for the period. In exploring these themes the module stresses the varied geological contexts of the archaeological data, and the imposed relationships between the structure of the data and the different questions that can be addressed. Regional and site-based data and specific examples from France (e.g. the River Somme Basin and Soucy), Spain (e.g. Atapuerca), Germany (e.g. Schöningen and Bilzingsleben) and the UK (e.g. Boxgrove, the Solent River Basin, the River Thames Basin, and the Bytham River) will be investigated.

The archaeology of this period is characterised by a mixture of unique spatial and chronological scales, and analyses vary from single knapping scatters to intra-regional comparisons across north-western Europe, and from individual butchery events to glacial/interglacial climatic cycles. The module is therefore also focused upon understanding and assessing the resulting archaeological challenges, examining different methodological approaches and interpretive frameworks, and highlighting the connections between archaeological data, research agendas, specific questions, and resultant behavioural models for Middle Pleistocene hominins. Archaeological and geological evidence are presented and critically reviewed throughout the module.

Global context:
This module explores the archaeology and environments of Western Europe's earliest humans, using examples and case studies from both Britain and the near continent (e.g. France, Spain and Germany).

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
A thematic programme is delivered through a series of discussion/presentation seminars and introductory lectures, artefact-based practical sessions, and two field trips (artefact-handling at either Reading Museum or the British Museum, and a walking tour of the Pleistocene terraces of the River Thames within Reading). Independent reading is required and discussion seminars will be based around reading assignments. Students will write one assessed critical review and annotated bibliography, one assessed essay and present one assessed seminar paper. Written feedback will be provided, with opportunities for individual oral feedback.

As a 20 credit module, The Edge of the Pleistocene World: The Lower Palaeolithic Archaeology of North-West Europe should involve 200 hours of study time: attending lectures, seminars, practicals and field trips; general background reading; preparing for seminars (including a seminar paper presentation); reading for your critical review and annotated bibliography and your essay; and coursework writing (and re-writing!). You should therefore expect the following sort of workload:

- 40 hours: Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (lectures, seminars, practicals and field trips);
- 50 hours: General background reading and note-taking from key texts for each week’s seminar topic(s), i.e. 5 hours per week;
- 50 hours: Reading for, preparation of, and writing your essay;
- 35 hours: Reading for, preparation of, and writing your critical review and annotated bibliography;
- 25 hours: Reading for, and preparation of, your seminar paper.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 12
Seminars 20
Practicals classes and workshops 4
External visits 4
Guided independent study 160
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Report 30
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Other information on summative assessment:
One critical review (2,000 words) and accompanying annotated bibliography (30% in total), one essay of 5,000 words (60%) and one seminar presentation + seminar participation (10%). Individual written feedback will be provided on both assignments, with opportunities for individual oral feedback.

Formative assessment methods:
Formative feedback will be provided through the seminar discussions.

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:
A mark of 50% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:
Resubmission of coursework by the end of August, but it cannot carry forward more than a pass mark.

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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