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 study of animal remains in archaeology, specifically covering the important vertebrate taxa commonly recovered from archaeological and palaeontological sites (i.e. mammals [including humans], birds and fish), as well as key invertebrate taxa (principally molluscs and insects). 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.


  • Practicals will start with an introductory lecture followed by supervised group work within laboratories. The practical programme will cover the following subject areas:
  • Introduction to comparative vertebrate anatomy
  • Identifying mammal bones
  • Identifying bird and fish remains
  • Identifying marine, freshwater and terrestrial molluscs
  • Identifying archaeologically important insect remains
  • Recognising non-metrical traits and bone pathology
  • Ageing vertebrate remains
  • Biometry: why and how to measure animal remains
  • Establishing sex from bones
  • Using geometric morphometrics

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Familiarity with the range of vertebrate and invertebrate materials 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, climate and human behaviour and adaptation. Sound knowledge of contemporary professional principles and good practice relating to zoo-archaeology, and of its broader context within archaeology. Familiarity with the debates relating to current major international themes within the discipline.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to recognise and identify animal remains from archaeological deposits. Ability to understand of the main techniques of analysis and interpretation, and of the potential and limitations of bioarchaeological data Ability to integrate these different datasets into models of climate change and human behaviour.
  • Practical laboratory and analytical skills in zooarchaeological 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 datasets.

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 zooarchaeological 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%) and 2) a data analytical exercise and an interpretative report (33%) and 3) a summative essay (33%) that will assess students' ability to understand and evaluate major topics in the subject.

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
Summative 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