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

Postgraduate Course: Archaeology and Environment (PGHC11381)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe relationship between people and their environment in the past is a key area of research, both how people interacted with and used environmental resources, and the influence of the environment on cultural and economic development. This course provides an in-depth understanding of the aims of environmental archaeology and a wide range of methodologies, with a focus on thematic issues including the origins of domestication and agriculture, the developments and impacts of pyrotechnology, and the links between environmental change and human development. We will examine and critique ideas such as environmental determinism. Case studies are drawn from current research and span a wide range of geographic and temporal scales, from early prehistory to the Crusades. The course provides grounding in the principles of Quaternary climate reconstruction and a wide range of environmental reconstruction methods for offsite and on-site analysis, including microfossils, geoarchaeology, and thin section micromorphology.
Course description Week 1:
Lecture 1 and 2 - Introduction to environmental archaeology
Lecture 2 - Mechanisms of environmental change (Quaternary climate cycles and vegetation dynamics)
PG seminar 1 ¿ Quaternary environments

Week 2:
Lecture 3 - Reconstructing past environments 1: palaeoecological techniques
Practical 1 and PG seminar 2 - Introduction to light microscopy and microfossil analysis (pollen practical)

Week 3:
Lecture 4 - Reconstructing past environments 2: geoarchaeological techniques
Practical 2 - Introduction to polarising microscopy and thin section analysis
Practical 3 - Introduction to sediments (sediments practical)

Week 4:
Lecture 5 - Understanding timescales and chronological techniques
Lecture 6 ¿ Humans and coastal landscapes in the Mesolithic

Week 5:
Lecture 7 ¿ Site formation processes and sediments as material culture
Practical 4 - thin section analysis of natural sediments and caves
PG seminar 3 ¿ Sediments as material culture

Week 6:
Lecture 8 - Fuel resource use and the development of pyrotechnology
Lecture 9 ¿ Insects, pests and fungal spores: identifying activities and use of space in Medieval buildings
Practical 5 ¿ Thin section analysis of ash and charcoal

Week 7:
Lecture 10 - Humans and environment in prehistory: coprolite analysis
Practical 6 ¿ Thin section analysis of coprolites and animal dung

Week 8:
Lecture 11 - Climate and land use change in the historical period (inc. dendrochronology and pollution)
Lecture 12 ¿ The Ecology of Crusading: environmental archaeology and the medieval European frontier
PG seminar 4 ¿ Historical V archaeological evidence

Week 9:
Lecture 13 - The origins of agriculture: a global perspective (a comparative perspective focusing on different environmental settings and resource availability)
Practical 7 ¿ Reconstructing environments and resource use: Phytolith analysis
PG seminar 5 ¿ Phytolith analysis, taphonomy and debates

Week 10:
Lecture 14 ¿ Environmental determinism
PG seminar 10 ¿ Agriculture and environmental determinism: student-led debate
Practical 6 ¿ Practical project week (choice of microfossil or thin section report)

Week 11:
Practical 7 ¿ Practical project week
PG seminar 11 ¿ seminar presentation on practical projects
PG seminar 12 ¿ seminar presentation on practical projects
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2014/15, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 14, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 2, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 7, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 168 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% coursework:
1. Essay 3000 words (due end of semester) (60%).
2. Critique of a method/technique and a paper/set of papers where this technique has been used (40%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course students will have gained:
1. In-depth knowledge and understanding of Environmental Archaeology
2. In-depth knowledge and understanding of Quaternary environments
3. In-depth knowledge and understanding of how humans have developed against and interacted with this environmental backdrop
4. In-depth knowledge and understanding of a wide range of applications of environmental archaeology methods, from early prehistory to the Medieval period
5. A wide range of practical skills in the use of advanced light, polarizing and stereomicroscopy, and the different applications of these
6. Advanced practical skills in the methods used for identifiyng and assessing environmental remains
7. Group working skills
8. Speaking and Powerpoint presentation skills
9. Research, essay writing and referencing skills
Reading List
Piperno, D. R. 2006. Phytoliths: A Comprehensive Guide for Archaeologists and Paleoecologists, AltaMira Press.
Asouti, E. (2011). Rethinking human impact on prehistoric vegetation in Southwest Asia: socioeconomics and long-term fuel/timber acquisition strategies at Neolithic Çatalhöyük in Proceedings of the 5th International Meeting of Charcoal Analysis: Charcoal as cultural and biological heritage. 123-124.
Simpson, I.A., Vésteinsson, O., Adderley, W.P. and McGovern, T. (2003). Fuel resource utilisation in landscapes of settlement, Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 1401-1420.
Canti, M. G. (2003). Aspects of the chemical and microscopic characteristics of plant ashes found in archaeological soils. CATENA 54, 339-361.
Staller JE and Thompson RJ. 2002. A Multidisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Initial Introduction of Maize into Coastal Ecuador. J. Arch. Sci. 29: 33-50.
Shillito, L-M. 2011b. Simultaneous thin section and phytolith observations of finely stratified deposits from Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey: implications for paleoeconomy and Early Holocene paleoenvironment J. Quat. Sci. 26 (6) 576-588
Matthews, W., French, C. I. A., Lawrence, T., Cutler, D. F. and Jones, M. K. 1997. Microstratigraphic traces of site formation processes and human activities. World Arch. 29: 281-308.
Madella, M., Jones, M.K., Goldberg, P., Goren, Y. And Hovers, E. 2002. The Exploitation of Plant Resources by Neanderthals in Amud Cave (Israel): The Evidence from Phytolith Studies J. Arch. Sci. 29: 703-719.
Brown, A. and Pluskowski, A. (2011) Detecting the environmental impact of the Baltic Crusades on a late-medieval (13th-15th century) frontier landscape: palynological analysis from Malbork Castle and hinterland, Northern Poland. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 1957-1966
Pluskowski, A., Boas, A. and Gerrard, C. (2011) The ecology of crusading: investigating the environmental impact of holy war and colonisation at the frontiers of medieval Europe. Medieval Archaeology 55: 192-225
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Report writing and research skills
- Use of different types of microscopes
- Presentation skills
- Team working skills
Course organiserDr Lisa Shillito
Tel: (0131 6)50 2554
Course secretaryMr Gordon Littlejohn
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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