ARMGQS-Geochemistry in Quaternary Science and Archaeology

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: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Prof Dominik Fleitmann


Summary module description:
Techniques borrowed from geochemistry are now widely applied to reveal climatic and environmental changes in the past, and to solve archaeological problems ranging from the chemical composition of artefacts, bones and matrix in which those artefacts were recovered. Thus, isotope and trace-element geochemistry plays an increasingly important role in a wide variety of environmental and archaeological investigations. The course is designed to provide an introduction to the methods, techniques and main applications of Geochemistry in Quaternary Science and Archaeology.

This module aims to provide a good understanding of the principles and application of geochemistry in Quaternary and Archaeological Sciences.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, students it should be able:
•To understand the main principles and application of geochemistry in Quaternary Science and Archaeology.
•Identify the most important analytical techniques for measuring trace elements and radiogenic and stable isotopes in various climatic and environmental archives and archaeological materials.
•To understand how trace elements and radiogenic and stable isotopes in geologic (e.g. peat bogs, lacustrine sediments, stalagmites, obsidian) and biologic (e.g., bones, plant materials, trees) can be used to reconstruct climatic and environmental changes in the past.
•To understand how geochemical data can be used in archaeology for provenance studies of artefacts, reconstruction of trade, population movements and human activities.
•To interpret and assess the potential and limitations of geochemical data obtained from geological, biological and archaeological materials.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:
The course will be divided in mainly three parts, focusing on (i) radiogenic isotopes; (ii) stable isotopes, and (iii) trace elements.

Radiogenic isotopes: Principles of radioactive decay; isotope measurements – mass spectrometry; uranium-series and radiocarbon dating; application of Uranium-series and radiocarbon dating of geologic, biologic and archaeological materials

Stable isotopes: Physical fundamentals, stable isotope mass spectrometry; Raleigh fractionation, Water isotopes (hydrogen and oxygen) in the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere; stable isotopes (hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen) in biological (e.g. plant remains, shells, bones) and geological (e.g. carbonates, sediments) materials.

Trace elements: Chemical characteristics of most important trace elements; analytical techniques to measure trace elements in climatic and environmental archives and archaeological samples such as obsidian, metals, plant remains and bone.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

After an introductory lecture (18 hours), sessions (4 hours) take the form of guided practical sessions on calibration of radiocarbon dates and statistical analysis. 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 for seminar topics - 58 hours: Revision

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 18
Seminars 4
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

Other information on summative assessment:

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:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 31 March 2017

Things to do now