ARMIVH-Introduction to Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded: ARMO44D Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Nick Branch


Summary module description:
Palaeobotany and archaeobotany are major research areas within both Quaternary Science and Archaeology. They employ a range of methods, in particular the analysis of plant microfossils and macrofossils, such a pollen, diatoms, wood, seeds and mosses, which are recovered from geological and archaeological archives, and permit the reconstruction of vegetation history, climate change and past economies and diet over a range of spatial and temporal scales. This module seeks to provide a detailed account of the theoretical and practical approaches employed, and will demonstrate through lectures, laboratory practical classes, seminars and a field trip how palaeobotanical and archaeobotanical records provide information on the human environment, resource exploitation and subsistence.

To develop detailed knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework and main practical approaches used to reconstruct vegetation history, climate change, and past plant economies and diet, using sub-fossil micro- and macroscopic plant remains.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, it is expected that the student will be able to:
• Critically evaluate palaeobotanical evidence for natural vegetation succession, human interference in vegetation succession and climate change
• Critically evaluate archaeobotanical evidence for human utilisation of plants
• Understand current theoretical issues and debates in palaeobotanical and archaeobotanical research
• Demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of palaeobotanical and archaeobotanical methods through fieldwork, laboratory work and seminars
• Identify, describe, interpret, integrate and present palaeobotanical and archaeobotanical information in the form of a scientific report

Additional outcomes:
Laboratory analyses will require the students to familiarise themselves with specific scientific apparatus, technical identification guides and reference collections.

Outline content:
This module will outline the theoretical framework and main practical approaches used in palaeobotany and archaeobotany, and demonstrate how botanical information generated from geological archives (e.g. peat bogs, lakes) and archaeological archives (e.g. cesspits, hearths) can be integrated to provide improved understanding of vegetation history, human interference in vegetation succession, climate change, and past economies and diet. To illustrate these themes, case studies will be used from NW Europe and the Mediterranean. The laboratory practical classes will focus on two classes of sub-fossil plant remains: pollen grains and spores (practical classes 1 to 3), and waterlogged plant macrofossils (practical classes 4 and 5). The classes will involve microscopy and statistical analysis (Detrended Correspondence Analysis and/or Principal Components Analysis) of the data using CANOCO. The one-day field trip will introduce the students to practical approaches used for studying the evolution of British heathlands.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module comprises 10 lectures (each lasting 1 hour) and 15 hours of laboratory-based practical work (5 sessions, each lasting 3 hours). In addition to the classroom and laboratory based teaching, the students will attend a one-day field trip (8 hours).

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Practicals classes and workshops 15
Fieldwork 8
Guided independent study 67
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Report 100

Other information on summative assessment:
Five laboratory practical reports (each 20%), each approximately 1000 words (total, 5000 words; total, 100%).

Formative assessment methods:
Laboratory analyses will require the students to familiarise themselves with specific scientific apparatus, technical identification guides and reference collections.

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:
Requirements for a pass: 50%

Reassessment arrangements:
Re-submission of coursework in September

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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