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Unit information: Britain BC in 2018/19

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Unit name Britain BC
Unit code ARCH20060
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Joanna Bruck
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit provides a comprehensive survey of the archaeology of prehistoric Britain in its European context. Starting with the first human settlers almost 1 million years ago and ending with the coming of the Romans, it explores the movements of people, objects and practices that have shaped British prehistory. From the lives of Ice Age hunter-gatherers, to the monuments built by the first farmers, the spectacular burials of Bronze Age chiefs and the art of the ‘Celts’, this unit examines the rich variety of evidence which can be used to reconstruct aspects of life and death in prehistory, including diet, mortuary and ceremonial practice, material culture, technological innovation, houses, settlements and landscapes.

This unit aims to provide students with:

  • Comprehensive knowledge of the sites, artefacts and monuments that characterise British prehistory.
  • Thorough awareness of how prehistoric environment and culture can be explored through archaeological remains, scientific analyses and ethnographic analogy.
  • Detailed understanding of how developments on the European mainland impacted British prehistoric society, economy and technology.
  • The ability to critically evaluate the variety of lines of available evidence upon which explanations and models of the European Neolithic and Bronze Age have been based.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, a successful student should be able to demonstrate:

1) A developed knowledge of the character and sequence of the British Palaeolithic to Iron Age

2) An ability to analyse and evaluate the archaeological evidence for connections with the European mainland and the interpretations that have been drawn from the evidence

3) Detailed familiarity with British prehistoric environmental, technological and social change and a thorough awareness of how this can be explored through archaeological remains, scientific analyses and ethnographic analogy

4) Thorough knowledge of the variety of models that have been employed to explain the development of social complexity over the course of prehistory

5) The ability to critically evaluate the variety of lines of available evidence upon which influential explanations and models for the spread of innovations and technologies have been based

6) A detailed understanding of models of social relations, ideology and exchange across the period.

Teaching details

Nine 2 hour lectures (weeks 1 - 10)

Five hours student presentation sessions (2 hrs in weeks 11, three hours in week 12)

Three 1 hour seminars - running in weeks 3, 7, 10

1 x day-long field trip (Reading/Skills week)

Assessment Details

Seminar presentation, 15 min, individual (25%), ILO 1-3.

Poster (25%), ILO 1-3.

Essay, 2500 words (50%), ILO 1-6.

All the assessments are summative.

Reading and References

Harding, A.F. 2000. European Societies in the Bronze Age. Cambridge: CUP.

Harding, A. and Fokkens, H. (eds) 2013. The Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age. Oxford: Oxbow. - also available online

Kristiansen, K. & Larsson, T. B. 2005. The Rise of Bronze Age Society: Travels, Transmissions and Transformations. Cambridge: CUP.

Price, T.D. (ed). 2000. Europe's first farmers. Cambridge: CUP.

Fowler, C., Harding, J. & Hofmann, D. (eds.) 2015. The Oxford Handbook of Neolithic Europe. Oxford: Oxbow. - also available online

Whittle, A. 1996. Europe in the Neolithic: the creation of new worlds. Cambridge: CUP