Understanding Human Environments in British Prehistory
Monday 23rd January 2017 - Friday 7th July 2017
(with a 4-week break for Easter)
Delivery: Distance Learning (Online)
This course will introduce you to the ways in which people interacted with the changing environment in Britain from the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago, through the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages to just before the arrival of the Romans. This was a period that saw dramatic climate change: at the end of the Ice Age, glaciers receded from Britain and sea levels rose until around 7,000 years ago the land bridge between Britain and mainland Europe was submerged.
We will use approaches from environmental and landscape archaeology to help us understand these prehistoric environments and the human behaviour within them, from the use of resources for food, tools and shelter, and the enclosure of landscape for agriculture, to the creation of symbolic and ritual locations.
How humans used environmental resources changed dramatically over this period - they went from being from hunter-gatherer-fishers to farmers cultivating domesticated plants and animals, but we will see that this transition was not a simple linear progression. The course describes how different societies developed different subsistence strategies and what these tell us about their relationships with their surroundings.
Topics we will study will include:
- prehistoric monuments
- Ice Age rock art with its depictions of animals
- ritual landscapes of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, such as henges, stone circles and rows
- first millennium hill forts - their situation and their relationship with landscape features such as waterways
- bog bodies - what they can tell us about the first millennium perception of bog environments and the significance of the ritual depositing of Bronze Age metalwork in rivers and lakes
Deadline for Registrations: Wednesday 18th January 2017
Week 1 Prehistoric Archaeology and Human Environments
Week 2 Humans at the end of the last Ice Age
Week 3 A Deciduous 'Jungle'?
Week 4 Doggerland
Week 5 Domestication’ of plants and animals
Week 6 Evidence for Food Getting
Week 7 “The Significance of Monuments”
Week 8 A place for the living and for the dead
Week 9 'Ritual' landscapes and Landscape Archaeology
Week10 Burial and the land in the Early and Middle Bronze Age
Week11 Land division and settlement enclosure - the later Bronze Age landscape
Week12 Hilltop enclosure in the First Millennium BC
Week14 Wetlands and wetland archaeology
Week15 'Votive' Deposits
Week16 Bog bodies
Week 17 Sacred Sites
Week18 'Ritual' deposition - plant and animal remains
Week19 Anthropocentric Interpretation
Week 20 "The Human Niche"
Learning / Teaching Methods
This course is delivered via the internet using an online system called ELE: the Exeter Learning Environment. Students will be given a username and password to log in to the course. A 'unit' or units of course material will be released every week for students to work through and class discussions on the material will take place in the online forum.
Class discussions are asynchronous - i.e. students do not need to be online at a 'set' time - they can leave and collect messages from the online discussion environment at a time suitable for them.
Throughout the course, students will be given activities to complete as well as ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area; these are optional and there are no assignments in terms of essays or other marked work. Students who might like to undertake a short piece of written work may be able to arrange this with the tutor on an individual basis.
As this course is non-credit-bearing there are no exams or assessments.
This course will help students to develop:
- A greater understanding of ‘the environment’ as a concept – it terms of what it means now, and what it might have meant to different prehistoric populations.
- Familiarity with past approaches to the study of prehistoric landscape activity, and of limitations to those approaches.
- An awareness of theoretical and practical approaches currently emerging in the fields of environmental and landscape archaeology.
There are no required texts for this course.
All students are reminded that to safeguard your own work and out of courtesy to others, it is sensible to ensure that the computer you will be using has anti-virus software installed and that this is regularly updated. Likewise, mac users who use Microsoft Word should ensure that they have enabled macro virus protection (this setting is found as a tick box in Word under 'preferences').
Preparatory study is not expected.
Students who register before the deadline may be given access to the discussion environment prior to the course start. In this case, students are welcome to log in and introduce themselves to each other and to the tutor - perhaps giving a little detail about their reasons for choosing this subject - before the official start date.