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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Exploring the British Palaeolithic (PGHC11382)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) Credits20
Home subject areaPostgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionThe course covers the British Palaeolithic: a period of close to one million years, from the earliest known occupation to the end of the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago. During this Britain was only intermittently home to humans. Ice Age conditions were often inclement and during certain periods they were too harsh for humans to survive. At other times the rise and fall of sea levels and profound geographical changes to northwestern Europe meant that occupation was difficult or apparently impossible. This pattern of periodic, short-lived occupations means that the archaeological record of Palaeolithic Britain offers fascinating snapshots of life in the Ice Age for several different human species.

With a backdrop of changing landscapes, fluctuating climates and shifting environments, the course examines behavioural and cultural aspects of these early human visitors. Key questions we will consider include:
- What can the earliest occupation of Britain close to one million years ago tell us about the capabilities of humans at this time?
- How did different humans at different times cope with the rigours of Ice Age Britain?
- When were humans not in Britain? What was responsible for these absences?
- What cultural connections existed between humans in Britain and in continental Europe? What does this tell us?

For most of the Palaeolithic, Britain was not an island, but was instead a peninsula of the European mainland. Throughout the course Britain will therefore be considered in its European context. Two momentous events which shaped the course of European prehistory will be examined in particular detail: the initial occupation of Europe by early humans, and the much later appearance of Homo sapiens.

The course will provide knowledge of many of the areas of research required to successfully understand Palaeolithic archaeological evidence. These will include lithic analysis, Pleistocene climatic and environmental reconstruction, and dating methods.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?No
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2013/14 Semester 1, Available to all students (SV1) Learn enabled:  Yes Quota:  None
Web Timetable Web Timetable
Course Start Date 16/09/2013
Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 13, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 9, Other Study Hours 7, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 167 )
Additional Notes 7 optional seminar hours
Breakdown of Assessment Methods (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
No Exam Information
Summary of Intended Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course students will have gained the following, to be demonstrated through participation in classes and class discussions, assessed presentations and assessed essays:
1. Knowledge and understanding of Pleistocene human occupation of Britain
2. Knowledge and understanding of climate, environments and the physical geography of northwest Europe throughout the Pleistocene
3. Knowledge and understanding of cultural and adaptive behaviours of different species of human evident in the archaeological record of Palaeolithic Britain
4. A critical understanding of how Palaeolithic archaeological evidence is interpreted
5. Group working, speaking and presentation skills
6. Research, essay writing and referencing skills
Assessment Information
100% coursework: essay (4000 words, 80%), presentation (15 minutes, 20%)
Special Arrangements
The series of seven PG seminars (see below) will comprise detailed discussion of key issues within the British Palaeolithic. Students will be allocated one seminar where they must individually present a summary and critical exploration of one of these issues in Powerpoint form, leading to group discussion of their findings. Students will be assessed on this contribution.
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Not entered
Transferable skills 1. Contextualisation of evidence via synthesis of different lines of investigation
2. Research and essay writing skills
3. Concise and accessible presentation of information and critical interpretation to their peers
Reading list Ashton, N.M. Lewis, S. G. & Stringer, C. B. (ed.) The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain. Amsterdam, Elsevier.

Parfitt, S. et al. 2010. Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe. Nature 466: 229-233.

Higham, T., Compton, T. Stringer, C., Jacobi, R., Shapiro, B., Trinkaus, E., Chandler, B., Gröning, Collins, C., Hillson, S., O¿Higgins, P., FitzGerald, C., Fagan, F. 2011. The earliest evidence for anatomically modern humans in northwestern Europe. Nature 479: 521¿24.

Pettitt, P. B. 2008. The British Upper Palaeolithic. In J. Pollard (ed.), Prehistoric Britain, pp. 18-57. London, Blackwell Studies in Global Archaeology.

Pettitt, P.B. and White, M.J. 2012. The British Palaeolithic: Human Societies at the Edge of the Pleistocene World. London, Routledge.

Scott, R. 2010. Becoming Neanderthals: The Earlier British Middle Palaeolithic. Oxford, Oxbow.

Stringer, C. 2006. Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain. London, Penguin.
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
Course organiserDr Robert Dinnis
Tel: (0131 6)50 4401
Course secretaryMs Rosie Edwards
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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