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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Archaeology

Undergraduate Course: Scientific Methods in Bio-Archaeology (ARCA10077)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAnalytical techniques and scientific methods are increasingly used in the reconstruction of the human past. Molecular and isotopic analyses of human and animal remains are providing startling new insights into human evolution and prehistoric lifeways.
In addition to providing a detailed explanation of these methodologies, this course will focus on how these methods have been successfully applied to a multitude of real-world archaeological questions. Key themes that will be investigated include prehistoric mobility and migration, the origins and development of agriculture, palaeodietary reconstruction, infectious disease, and the fate of the Neanderthals. These major research questions will be examined through a series of case studies and workshops.
Course description Week 1.
Lecture 1: Archaeology and the appliance of science
Lecture 2: An introduction to DNA

Week 2.
Lecture 3: Biomolecules: preservation and decay
Lecture 4: DNA, demographics and kinship studies

Week 3.
Lecture 5: Out of Africa: molecular clocks
Workshop 1: The Romanovs

Week 4.
Lecture 6: Neanderthals - brothers or cousins?
Lecture 7: Migration and mobility - a genetic approach

Week 5.
Lecture 8: DNA, mobility and migration in the European Iron Age
Workshop 2: Neanderthals live on?

Week 6.
Lecture 9: Unnatural selection - the domestication of animals
Lecture 10: Next generation - the domestication of plants

Week 7.
Lecture 11: Atoms and isotopes
Workshop 3: Writing a research proposal

Week 8.
Lecture 12: Palaeodietary reconstruction - the isotope revolution
Lecture 13: The Romanization of Iron Age Britain - the evidence from isotopes

Week 9.
Lecture 14: Migration and mobility - an isotopic perspective
Workshop 4: Are we what we eat?

Week 10.
Lecture 15: Organic residues - isotopes and lipids
Lecture 16: Sulphur isotopes - the next diet fad?

Week 11.
Lecture 17: Infectious disease and inherited disorders
Workshop 5: Mobility in the Bronze Age - the Amesbury Archer
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Pre-requisites: Archaeology 2A and 2B, or Honours entry to degrees in Classics, or equivalent.
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2014/15, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 60 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment will comprise; (i) coursework (40%), and (ii) a two hour examination (60%).
The coursework comprises the design and planning of a research proposal for a specific assemblage of bioarchaeological materials within a specified budget.
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of the course students will be expected to demonstrate through assessment of coursework, participation in workshops and examination:
(i) detailed knowledge of the molecular and isotopic methods employed in the analysis of bioarchaeological materials;
(ii) an appreciation of the principal applications of scientific techniques in the reconstruction of the human past from bioarchaeological materials;
(iii) a critical understanding of the key issues, concerns and debates surrounding the application of scientific methods in bioarchaeology;
(iv) an ability to critically evaluate published interpretations of data; and
(v) an understanding of the structure and key components of research proposals.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Upon successful completion of the course students will have aquired and/or be expected to demonstrate the following transferable skills:
(i) an ability to synthesize and critically evaluate data from primary sources;
(ii) participation in group projects, as well as conducting independent study and research;
(iii) communication of ideas and arguments, both orally and in writing; and
(iv) design and preparation of research proposals.

KeywordsScientific Methods
Course organiserDr Catriona Pickard
Tel: (0131 6)50 2372
Course secretaryMrs Summer Wight
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