Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Anthropology


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of the significance of hunter-gatherer communities in human social evolution and in the contemporary world
  • To integrate archaeological and anthropological study, with particular reference to issues and methods that are common to both disciplines


  • Is hunting and gathering a distinctive mode of subsistence?
  • The evolution of hunter-gatherer technology.
  • Resource ecology and optimal foraging.
  • Reciprocity and co-operation in modern hunter-gatherers, and the evidence for social behaviour in the Palaeolithic.
  • Rock art.
  • Hunter-gatherer politics and the concepts of immediate and delayed return.
  • The transition between hunting and gathering, and farming.
  • Hunter-gatherer/farmer interaction.
  • Hunter-gatherers in the modern world.
  • Is hunting and gathering a unique adaptation?
  • Settlement and society, past and present.
  • Optimality theory: territory and technology.
  • The interpretation of Palaeolithic art.
  • The behaviour of pre-modern humans.
  • Egalitarian societies.
  • The origins of agriculture.
  • Strategies for survival in the modern world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced understanding the evolution of hunting and gathering as a way of life.
  • Familiarity with the main features of hunter-gatherer societies in the past and present, using the methods of both anthropology and archaeology.
  • Critical appreciation of current theories concerning hunter-gatherer society and economy.
  • Understanding the interaction between hunter-gatherers and farming and colonial societies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Testing theory through its application to archaeological and anthropological case studies.
  • Integrating archaeology and anthropology in the understanding of hunting and gathering as a way of life.
  • Evaluating the place of hunter gatherer communities in the modern world, and policies to enhance their cultural survival.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and distribution of written summaries of key points in set topics.
  • Essay writing based on independent reading used to address novel issues at an advanced level.
  • Students should be able to express themselves clearly and concisely on technical topics, and explain why particular issues are important and/or controversial

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The formal components of the module use a range of teaching modes and methods, within an integrated framework to contribute to the intended learning outcomes as listed above. The module benefits from a balance between lectures and seminars, geared to the specific needs of the material. The lectures and seminars are carefully integrated. Audio-visual aids (video, sound, slides, powerpoint etc.) are used where appropriate.
  • The informal components of the module utilise a variety of methods, including e-mail discussion groups, seminar presentations and associated oral discussions.
  • Lectures will cover topics relevant for providing students with an understanding of theories currently available for the study of hunters and gatherers. Lectures provide a traditional method of communicating not only fact but clear understandings of process and the relationship between issues. They are used for the primary delivery of material on hunters and gatherers because they allow clear transmission of information in an active learning environment where students can question and seek clarification. Lectures introduce students to issues, structure the subject matter and provide a grounding in principal issues so they can progress to further learning and study. Lectures provide the framework for analysis and relevant background, theoretical and/or historical information, and are used to assist in the assimilation of technically demanding or conceptually difficult material. Students are expected to attend the weekly lectures. They are required to attend the fortnightly seminars. They are also required to make seminar presentations.
  • Seminars provide an opportunity for students to discuss a series of topics and to make oral presentations. Difficult, sensitive and unresolved issues can all be approached successfully through discussion in seminars. Seminars will cover topics relevant to the content of the module. Seminars imply a higher degree of student involvement and teach subject-specific and generic skills. For anthropology students this medium cannot simply be replaced by texts or websites, though both are important adjuncts.
  • Summative assessment comes from a three-hour examination in May/June. This tests assimilated knowledge and understanding and the ability to write succinctly and analytically at short notice.
  • Formative assessment takes place on a regular basis and may be regarded an integral part of the day-to-day teaching process.
  • Formative feedback is also given on two essays based on seminar presentations, each of 2000 words, one in the Michaelmas Term and one in the Epiphany Term.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 approx. fortnightly 2 hr 20
Tutorials 6 2 per term 1 hr 6
Seminars 4 2 per term (M&Ep) 2 hr 8
Preparation and reading time 266
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: exam Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
exam 3 hr 100%

Formative Assessment:

two essays based on seminar presentations, each of 2000 words, one in the Michaelmas Term and one in the Epiphany Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University