• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Archaeology

What can the past tell us about our future? Much of what we know of the deeper past comes from the remains of microscopic organisms and sediment properties found in depositional settings around the world. In Australia and the Asia-Pacific region there is a rich body of evidence for past changes in climate and biodiversity that is only just beginning to be explored. The course combines in-class learning, annd a 7 day fieldtrip to the Wet Tropics of northeast Queensland, with ‘hands-on’ experience in field collection and analysis of a range of palaeo-environmental indicators including pollen, charcoal, seeds, biogenic silica, and stable isotopes. This will provide students with a deeper understanding and the practical skills to engage in palaeoecology, archaeological science, palaeoclimatology, and natural resource management research.

7 day fieldwork component costs: $900 + return airfare from Canberra to Cairns

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Describe the natural and anthropogenic drivers of past environmental change at a global as well as regional level.
  2. Describe and explain the techniques that are used to reconstruct past environmental conditions in Australia and abroad.
  3. Analyse and reconstruct past environmental conditions using appropriate field and laboratory techniques.
  4. Interpret palaeo-environmental data from a range of sedimentary contexts.
  5. Reflect on the natural and human influences that explain past environmental conditions and be able to communicate these in ways appropriate to a range of audiences.
  6. Present research data in a journal article format.


Indicative Assessment

Assessment Task

Word Count

Assessment Value

Tutorial presentation. Verbal summary of a selected research paper from the course reading guide



Multiple choice exam (25 questions) based on lecture content



Fieldtrip report based on daily entries to the Fieldtrip Diary (questions and observations)



Poster assessment delivered as a poster and oral presentation



Laboratory analysis report



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  • One week lectures and small group discussions at ANU culminating in an exam.
  • Two weeks based in the Wet Tropics of northern Australia (JCU Cairns-Atherton-Chillagoe region), including lectures, field data collection and laboratory analysis culminating in a 1 day mini-conference for posters with supporting oral presentation.
  • Contact hours for course can be broken down as follows.
    Lectures = 24hr
    Small group discussion = 20hr
    Laboratory work =18hr
    Fieldwork = 4.5 days

Requisite and Incompatibility

You will need to contact the School of Culture History and Language to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts


  • Tuniz, C., Gillespie, R. and Jones, C. 2009. The Bone Readers: Atoms, genes and the politics of Australia's deep past. Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
  • Steffen, Will et al. 2009. Australia's biodiversity and climate change. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.
  • Williams, M. A. J., Dunkerley, D.L., DeDeckker. P., Kershaw, A.P. and Chappell J. M. A. 1998. Quaternary Environments. 2nd ed. London, Edward Arnold.
  • Battarbee, R. and Binney, H.A. Editors. 2008. Natural Climate Variability and Global Warming: A Holocene Perspective. Wiley-Blackwell, UK.
  • Elias, S. Editor. 2007. Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science. London, Wiley. (Available online though ANU)


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $2958
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $4350
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Summer Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
1787 07 Jan 2016 15 Jan 2016 15 Jan 2016 08 Feb 2016 In Person N/A

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