Palaeolithic Archaeology of Homo Sapiens 100,000-12,000 BP (ARC2131)

Staff - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to the archaeology of Homo sapiens expansion across the world. Students will engage with a variety of different data and assignments will require students to synthesise complex ideas and interpretations into coherent arguments. Students will engage with a series of key topics including use of fire through the latitudes, burials and status, Palaeolithic dwellings, intra-site spatial analysis, and what we know from ancient DNA studies that are continuing to revolutionise our understanding of this period. The module will be taught assuming no prior knowledge of Palaeolithic archaeology.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop knowledge of the archaeology of Homo sapiens expansion and colonization of the world
  • 2. Develop knowledge of Homo sapiens encounters with other extant hominin species
  • 3. Demonstrate ability to gather evidence generated using a wide range of methods and analytical techniques
  • 4. Develop knowledge of key techniques that have been used to investigate Upper Palaeolithic archaeology
  • 5. Develop knowledge of key themes and topics in Palaeolithic archaeology that chart continuity and change through time

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Ability to assemble diverse evidence and synthesise it into a coherent linear argument to support a particular view or interpretation
  • 7. Show understanding of specific challenges faced by Palaeolithic archaeologists due to taphonomy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Ability to weigh competing interpretations of the same evidence and reach own reasoned judgements
  • 9. Engage discussions of complex issues
  • 10. Write clearly and concisely in good English

Syllabus plan

Upper Palaeolithic archaeology

First colonisation of the northern latitudes and the Arctic Circle

Surviving the last ice age

Encounters between Homo sapiens and other extant hominins during the Out of Africa dispersal

Human-Neanderthal interactions

Upper Palaeolithic art, burials and society

Fire, subsistence and dwellings

After the ice: the Late Upper Palaeolithic

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities18Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4Seminar discussions and formative student presentations
Guided independent study128Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar presentations10 minutes group presentations, plus class participation1,2,3,4,5,7,9Verbal feedback (lecturer and peers)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay502000 words1,2,3,6,8,10written
Exam501.5 hours1,2,5,6,8,9,10writen

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay 2000 words1,2,3,6,8,10referred/deferred period
ExamExam 1.5 hours1,2,5,6,8,9,10referred/deferred period

Re-assessment notes

Same as original assessments

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Gamble, C. (1999) The Palaeolithic societies of Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Hoffecker, J.F. (2002) Desolate landscapes: Ice-Age settlement in Eastern Europe. London: Rutgers University Press.


Kelly,R.L. 2013. The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The foraging spectrum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Mellars, P., Boyle, K. and Bar-Yosef, O. (2007) Rethinking the human revolution: new behavioural and biological perspectives on the origin and dispersal of modern humans. Cambridge: McDonald Institute of Archaeological research.


Pettitt, P. (2011) The Palaeolithic origins of human burial. Oxon: Routledge.


Pettitt, P.B. and White, M.J. (2012) The British Palaeolithic: human societies at the edge of the Pleistocene world. London: Routledge.


Pettitt, P. B. (2016). Darkness visible. Shadows, art and the ritual experience of caves in Upper Palaeolithic Europe. In The Archaeology of Darkness. Dowd, M. & Hensey, R. OxBow. 11-23.


Roebroeks, W., Mussi, M., Svoboda, J. and Fennema, K. (eds.) (2000) Hunters of the golden age: the Mid Upper Palaeolithic of Eurasia 30,000-20,000 BP. Leiden: University of Leiden.


Sklená?, K. (1976) Palaeolithic and Mesolithic dwellings: An essay in classification. Památky archeologické, 47, 249-340.


Speth, J.D. (2010) Boiling vs roasting in the Paleolithic: broadening the "broadening food spectrum"". Journal of The Israel Prehistoric Society, 40, 63-83.


Soffer, O. (1989) Storage, sedentism and the Eurasian Palaeolithic record. Antiquity, 63, 719-732.


Soffer, O. and Praslov, N.D. (1993) From Kostenki to Clovis : Upper Paleolithic Paleo-Indian adaptations. New York ; London: Plenum Press.

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Key words search

Archaeology, Palaeolithic