Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ARCH42430: Environmental Archaeology

Department: Archaeology

ARCH42430: Environmental Archaeology

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide an intensive practically-based introduction to the study of plant and animal remains, and the archaeological and dating context in which these datasets are interpreted, and/or the study of soils and sediments
  • To explore the principal analytical approaches to the study of these datasets derived from materials and furnish students with a firm grounding in their recording, analysis and interpretation.


  • Introduction to the theory method and practice of environmental archaeology on a regional and global scale
  • Theory and practice of chronometric dating techniques for the Quaternary period
  • Practical work applying one chronometric technique
  • and/or
  • Theory and practice of archaeobotany for archaeological sites
  • Practical work applying archaeobotanical laboratory techniques to a suitable assemblage
  • and/or
  • Theory and practice of zooarchaeology
  • Practical work applying zooarchaeological laboratory techniques to a suitable assemblage
  • and/or
  • Theory and practice of geoarchaeology
  • Practical work applying geoarchaeological laboratory techniques to a suitable sample set
  • and
  • Integrating archaeological, chronometric and palaeoecological datasets.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Familiarity with the range of environmental remains and potential dating samples 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 palaeoecology 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 common environmental remains from archaeological deposits.
  • Ability to understand the main techniques of analysis and interpretation and of the potential and limitations of these remains.
  • Ability to integrate these different datasets into models of climate change and human behaviour.
  • Practical laboratory and analytical skills in archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological, geoarchaeological and/or chronometric 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 and seminars introduce the subject and theme of each practical and highlight published case studies related to them.
  • Practicals introduce students to the range of 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
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 or 2 11
Practicals 9 Weekly 3 27
Practical preparation and reading 262
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Chronometry practical report Component Weighting: 34%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Chronometry practical report 1500 words 100%
Component: Archaeobotany practical report Component Weighting: 33%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Archaeobotany practical report 1500 Words 100%
Component: Zooarchaeology practical report Component Weighting: 33%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Zooarchaeology practical report 1500 Words 100%

Formative Assessment:

This will be the keeping of a laboratory notebook that will be checked regularly by the course convenor.

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