Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Archaeology


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide an intensive practically-based introduction to the study of plant remains, specifically plant macrofossils, in archaeology.
  • To explore the principal analytical approaches to the study of these datasets and furnish students with a firm grounding in their recording, analysis and interpretation.


  • Introductory session with lecture and half-day trip to Durham University Botanic Gardens.
  • Practicals will start with an introductory lecture followed by supervised group work within laboratories. The practical programme will cover the following subject areas:
  • Producing a reference collection (cereals and wood)
  • Sample processing and macrofossil storage
  • Identifying and analysing carbonised plant macrofossils: Cereals, wild plants and wood
  • Identifying and analysing uncarbonised plant macrofossils (waterlogged and dessicated)
  • Reconstructing vegetation in the wider landscape through pollen analysis.
  • Integrating archaeological and palaeoecological datasets.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Familiarity with the range of archaeobotanical remains recovered from archaeological sites.
  • Practical understanding of the identification, recording and analysis of such material.
  • Familiarity with the role of these remains in reconstructing past environments and human adaptation to these environments.
  • Sound knowledge of contemporary professional principles and good practice relating to archaeobotany and its broader context in archaeology.
  • Familiarity with the debates relating to current major international themes within the discipline.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to recognise and identify archaeobotanical remains from archaeological deposits. Ability to understand the main techniques of analysis and interpretation, and of the potential and limitations of archaeobotanical remains.
  • Ability to integrate these different datasets into models of climate change and human behaviour.
  • Practical laboratory and analytical skills in archaeobotanical recording and analyses.
  • Direct experience of a field of importance to professional practice.
Key Skills:
  • Ability to analyse, interpret and present large and often complex and diverse data sets.

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

  • Modes of Teaching and Learning: Demonstrations introduce the subject and theme of each practical and highlight published case studies related to them. Practicals introduce students to the range of archaeobotanical material. Small group practicals give students the opportunity to improve personal laboratory and analysis skills.
  • Modes of Assessment: Summative: will consist of 1) an identification and recording test (33.4%) and 2) a data analytical exercise and an interpretative report (33.3% - 2000 words) and 3) a summative essay (33.3% - 2000 words) that will assess students' ability to understand and evaluate major topics in archaeobotany.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 0
Tutorials 0
Seminars 0
Practicals 10 weekly 3 30
Fieldwork 0
Other 0
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Identification and recording test Component Weighting: 33.4%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Identification and recording test 1 Hour 100%
Component: Analytical Exercise and interpretative report Component Weighting: 33.3%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Exercise and interpretative report 2500 Words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 33.3%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 Words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Practical Portfolio

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