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Unit information: Prehistoric Landscapes (Supervised Independent Study B) in 2015/16

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Unit name Prehistoric Landscapes (Supervised Independent Study B)
Unit code ARCHM0072
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Joanna Bruck
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines archaeological approaches to the recording, analysis and interpretation of prehistoric landscapes. The wealth of prehistoric landscapes in southwest England (including, for example, the Salisbury Plain, the Somerset Levels and the Mendips) will form a particular focus of study, supplemented by other examples from across Britain and Europe, including uplands, lowlands, wetlands and the intertidal zone. It explores how societies at different times have used landscapes for subsistence, settlement, agriculture and ritual purposes, as well as for defence and prestige. Excavation and palaeoenvironmental evidence will be considered in detail to explore how different societies have interacted with the environment. Fieldtrips will supplement class-based discussion of a range of key methodologies and theoretical issues in landscape archaeology.


  • to explore critically the evidence for landscape use and subsistence practices by prehistoric societies within a range of topographical zones;
  • to understand how the introduction of agriculture and monument building re-shaped and altered the landscape;
  • to understand how different societies used landscapes for both ritual and functional purposes;
  • to investigate how different environments were used in prehistory and critically explore current interpretations;
  • to show how the evidence for settlement, subsistence and ritual practice in the landscape can be recognised and investigated in prehistory.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to:

  • locate sources of archaeological data, from fieldwork to archives and library and internet resources;
  • evaluate archaeological data, its quality and significance;
  • use data to test hypotheses, generated from a broad understanding of the discipline and current research debates;
  • deliver an academically sound and professional research paper;
  • recognise and successfully interpret landscape features within prehistoric contexts;
  • place these features within the context of changing subsistence, settlement and ritual practices and account for those changes through reference to recent interpretive work;
  • evaluate the importance of both excavation and palaeoenvironmental evidence in investigating past human occupation of the landscape;
  • assess how current debates constantly revise our interpretations.

Teaching Information

Lectures, fieldtrips and site visits (20 contact hours minimum). The times and duration of each session will be determined at the beginning of the teaching block in consideration of the number of students and their specific interests. Approximately half of the hours are fieldtrips or site visits.

Assessment Information

The unit will be assessed by a submission (or submissions) to be agreed in advance with the Unit Director and topic tutor, and will be related to the chosen pathway or programme. The submission(s) will be equivalent in academic scope and weight to an essay of 5000 words. The topic and nature of the submission(s) will be agreed in advance of submission with the Unit Director or topic tutor, as appropriate.

Reading and References

  • Bradley, R. 2007. The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Edmonds, M. 1999. Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic. London: Routledge.
  • Fowler, P. 2002. Farming in the First Millennium BC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mellars, P. and Dark, P. 1998. Star Carr in Context. Cambridge: McDonald Instutute.
  • Tilley, C. 1994. A Phenomenology of Landscape: places, paths and monuments. Oxford: Berg.