Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH3897: Palaeoanthropology and Palaeoecology

Department: Anthropology

ANTH3897: Palaeoanthropology and Palaeoecology

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • ANTH2061 Evolution, Variation and Adaptation OR ANTH2071 Our Place in Nature


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce the fundamentals of mammalian palaeoecology
  • To explore how palaeoecological theory and observations of modern animal morphology and behaviour can be applied to the fossil record as it relates to hominin evolution
  • To provide students with a set of critical methods and tools for reconstructing the ecology and environments of Pliocene and Pleistocene hominins


  • The module will present the theory that underlies the discipline of mammalian palaeoecology and teach students how to apply it to the hominin and non-hominin mammalian fossil record.
  • The module will focus largely on the fossil record of the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Africa but may also cover other time periods and geographical regions where appropriate.
  • Topics that may be covered include: mammalian morphology and ecological behaviour, the exploitation of niches, mammal community analysis, ecomorphology and functional morphology, hominin palaeoenvironments, hominin evolution and climate change, and hominin ecological behaviours.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge of and debates in palaeoecology and palaeoanthropology.
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of palaeoecological and palaeoanthropological theory, and how these are applied to the fossil record.
  • Demonstrate competence in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Apply in-depth knowledge of relevant theory and knowledge, with emphasis on interpretation and comprehensive understanding of primary or secondary data.
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to studies of mammalian palaeoecology and hominin evolution
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written form.

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

  • Sessions will integrate lecture, discussion-based, and practical components.
  • Lecture elements will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, and provide relevant examples and cases studies.
  • Practical elements will develop further critical knowledge of weekly topics and material covered in the required readings, allowing students to discuss literature, pose questions and answer questions for others. This will assist in preparing students for their summative assignment. Practical components will also provide students with hands-on experience of the research and relevant methods.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of lectures/seminars including those that can be used for the assessment.
  • Summative assessment will consist of a 2,500 word written piece of work

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture/seminar classes 10 Weekly 1 10
Practicals 5 Specified in module handbook 1 5
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written assessment as specified in module handbook 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

500 word written piece as specified in the module handbook.

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