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Unit information: Prehistoric Landscapes in 2015/16

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Unit name Prehistoric Landscapes
Unit code ARCHM0059
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

Upon completion of this Unit students will:

  • be able to recognise and successfully interpret landscape features within prehistoric contexts;
  • be able to place these features within the context of changing subsistence, settlement and ritual practices and account for those changes through reference to recent interpretive work;
  • have an understanding of the importance of both excavation and palaeoenvironmental evidence in investigating past human occupation of the landscape;
  • be aware of how current debates constantly revise our interpretations.

Teaching Information

  • 12 lectures/seminar sessions
  • 4 fieldtrips

Assessment Information

  • A 3000 word essay (75%)
  • An oral presentation (25%)

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.