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Unit information: British Prehistory in 2013/14

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Unit name British Prehistory
Unit code ARCH12011
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Joanna Bruck
Open unit status Open




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


This module will provide an introduction to the archaeology of prehistoric Britain by examining significant points in the development of early human societies, including the earliest appearance of Homo sapiens, the introduction of agriculture and the invention of metal working. Case studies will be used to explore the changing landscapes, mortuary practices and settlement evidence from c. 700,000 BP to the end of the Iron Age. The module will introduce a broad range of archaeological sites and finds and will outline some of the key ways in which these have been interpreted by archaeologists.


  • To present the key types of sites, artefacts and monuments that characterise Bristish prehistoric archaeology.
  • To describe how prehistoric landscapes and the populations those supported changed from 700,000 BC to AD 43.
  • To consider how the evidence has been employed to understand the character and organisation of past societies.
  • To critically assess the variety of models developed to explain social and economic change over the period.
  • To evaluate current debates regarding the interpretation of significant sites and monuments.
  • To illustrate how new discoveries alter our understanding of the past.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this module successful students should be able to:

  1. Identify key classes of artefact, site and monument.
  2. Explain how archaeologists have used this evidence to reconstruct aspects of the prehistoric past.
  3. Outline the significance of key points in the development of early human societies.
  4. Critically assess the variety of models employed to understand how and why prehistoric societies changed over time.
  5. Construct logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence.

Teaching details

16 lectures, 1 two hour practical, 1 fieldtrip

Assessment Details

1. One essay of 1500-2000 words (50%). ILOs 2,3,4,5.

2. Class test (25%). 50 minute class test compriosing a series of image identifications. ILO 1.

3. Final exam (25%). 60 minute exam taken during exam week. ILO 2,3,4,5.

Reading and References

The latest key textbooks are:

  • Bradley, R. 2007. The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. On order for The Arts & Social Library..
  • Hunter, J. and Ralston, I. Eds. 2009. The Archaeology of Britain. London: Routledge.
  • Darvill,T. 2010. Prehistoric Britain. London: Batsford.
  • Pollard, J. (ed) 2008. Prehistoric Britain. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Sharples, N. 2010. Social Relations in Later Prehistory:Wessex in the first millenium BC. Oxford:Oxford University Press.
  • Stringer, C. 2006. Homo Britannicus:the incredible story of human life in Britain. London:Allen Lane.