Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Archaeology


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • 'Palaeoethnobotany' (ARCH3551)


  • 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.


  • Research visits to Durham University Botanic Gardens.
  • Practicals will start with an introductory lecture followed by supervised group work within laboratories. The practicals will cover the following subject areas:
  • 1. Producing a reference collection (wood).
  • 2. Sample processing and macrofossil storage.
  • 3. Identifying and analyzing carbonized plant macrofossils: Cereals, wild plants and wood.
  • 4. Identifying and analyzing uncarbonised plant macrofossils (waterlogged and dessicated).
  • 5. Reconstructing vegetation in the wider landscape through pollen analysis.
  • 6. 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:
  • By the end of this module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate a range of communication skills including the ability to synthesize and evaluate information obtained from a variety of sources (e.g. primary datasets, written secondary sources, oral and web sources); communicate relevant information in different ways (e.g. written, oral, tables and graphs) and select the most appropriate method of communication for the presentation of interpretation and analyses.
  • Demonstrate a range of numerical skills including the ability to read graphs, tables, charts; to organise date; to make inferences from data; to reflect upon the potential and limitations of numerical skills.
  • Demonstrate competence in the use of IT resources (e.g. word processing, statistical software, web-based resources).
  • Demonstrate the ability to relate experience of a field of research to professional practice.
  • Demonstrate a capacity to improve one’s own learning and performance, including the ability to manage time effectively, to work to prescribed deadlines and within a laboratory environment, to engage in different ways of learning including independent and directed forms of learning, to gather the necessary information from primary data sets, bibliographic and electronic resources, to seek and use feedback from academic staff, to monitor and critically reflect upon the learning process.

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

  • 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.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Bi-monthly 1.5 12
Practicals 11 2 22
Id Tests 2 1.5 3
Practical preparation and reading 263
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Identification and recording test Component Weighting: 33.4%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Two identification and recording tests 3 Hours 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:

This will be the keeping of a laboratory notebook that will be checked regularly by the course convenor. A formative assessment will be made of the laboratory notebook at the end of Michaelmas 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