ARMGCC-Climate Change and Human Communities

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded: ARMICC Introduction to Holocene Climate Change and Human Society
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Dominik Fleitmann


Type of module:

Summary module description:
Over the last 20 years paleoclimatologists have developed precise records of climate change for many key-regions. By comparing these records with archaeological and historical data, there is mounting evidence that human societies respond in a variety of ways to climatic changes, including adaptation, demise, collapse, migration and invention of new technologies. Prominent examples for the response of societies to climate are the spread of agriculture in the Middle East at the beginning of the Holocene, increased societal complexity and urbanization in the mid-Holocene, the collapse of the Akkadian empire in Mesopotamia at around 4.2 kyr BP, the fall of the classic Mayan civilization in Central America between 750 and 950 AD, outbreak of diseases (e.g., the Justinian plague at around 541 AD) and invention of ingenious water management and irrigation systems (e.g., terraced farming and dams in Yemen). Although still subject of controversial discussions (“climate determinism”), it becomes increasingly clear that changing climate is one of the most important, if not the most important factor behind societal evolution. This module aims to provide an overview how climate and environment have varied over the course of the Holocene (last 11.500 years before present). It aims to encourage students to critically appraise relationships between climatic and societal changes.

The module aims to provide students with an improved understanding of the climatic changes and events that took place during the Holocene. Students will learn how palaeoclimate data can be obtained from various geological (sediments, stalagmites), physical (ice cores) and biological archives (trees, corals), and how these records can be used for the interpretation of archaeological findings. Furthermore, by presenting and discussing examples for climate-human relationships students will be encouraged to engage more fully with interdisciplinary research.

Assessable learning outcomes:
At the end of the module you should:
-Have developed a good understanding of major paleoclimatic and –environmental transitions and events during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.
-Be familiar with the most important paleoclimate records from key-regions (e.g., Europe, Mediterranean and Northern Africa).
-Have built up a profound knowledge of case study examples for climate-human relationships from the research literature.
-Have knowledge of the complex and multiple interacting processes and scales that steer the emergence, sustainability or collapse of societies during the Holocene.

Additional outcomes:

Interactive lectures will help students to apply and enhance their communication skills in different setting. - Seeing opportunities to synthesizing geological and archaeological datasets. - Interpretation of environmental and societal data over various temporal and spatial scales - Use of modern graphical software packages and web-based archives.

Outline content:
The module comprises an introductory lecture providing an overview of the most prominent climatic transitions and event, with a focus on their forcing factors (e.g, solar activity, volcanic eruptions, and internal climate variability). Further lectures aim to providing an overview of late Pleistocene and Holocene climate records from key-regions, such as Europe, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa. Finally, prominent examples for climate-human interactions will be presented and discussed.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

As a 20 credit module, students should expect the following sort of workload: - 22 hours: Formal teaching sessions (lectures and seminars) - 80 hours: Background reading and note-taking from key-articles for each week’s topic - 30 hours: Reading for, preparation of, and writing your essay - 10 hours: Reading and note-taking - 58 hours: Revision

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 0
Project Supervision 2
Guided independent study 178
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One essay of c. 3000 words (60%) and article critique of c. 1500 words (40%)

Formative assessment methods:

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:

Assessment requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:
Resubmission of coursework by 1 September, 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: 20 April 2018


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