• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Archaeology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Timothy Denham
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2015
    See Future Offerings

This course examines human-climate interaction in the archaeological record from 0.5 million years ago, through the development of modern humans and the last glacial maximum(LGM), into the historic present. The first part of the course outlines chronological frameworks built from Quaternary proxy geological records, rates of climate change in relation to hominin evolution, migrations and dispersals and human cognitive development, contrasting patterns globally. Archaeological site evidence and stratigraphy is used to track the emergence of modern humans into the LGM and then the Holocene. Focus narrows to the adaptive contingency of hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists to climate, human population growth, migration, urban development and complex social responses to climate events in disasters and diasporas. The pivotal role archaeological research and theory has played in stimulating climate research in the last 150 years, and shaping past and present public perceptions of climate change is a major theme. Archaeology provides baselines for evaluating contemporary climate issues eg. sea level rise, island abandonment, biogeographic shifts and habitat change or debating the reintroduction of lost species eg. the beaver in Western Europe. Archaeology offers unique long term and culturally specific perspectives on human-climate interaction. The final module looks at  case studies of how climate change, sustainable management, public education, and risk modelling can utilise sub-regional and site-specific archaeological science data eg. extending known return periods and magnitudes of catastrophic events such as storm surges, floods and drought relevant to floodplain management, sustainable agriculture, coastal management and hazard management solutions. 

Learning Outcomes

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

On completing the course students will have acquired the knowledge and skills to:

  • Use appropriate tools and methods to contextualise contemporary climate change issues in a broader human ecological framework. and longer time-frame.
  • Define the limitations and potential of archaeological data for calibrating and testing retrodictive models of past climate conditions and climate events
  • Apply critical interdisciplinary thinking to evaluating the rates and magnitudes of rapid climate change
  • Frame informed understandings of the theoretical context from which contemporary understandings of human development and climate change have arisen through studying the human past.
  • Apply informed understanding of rates and magnitude of climate chage within improved outcomes in public communication, policy formulation, and roll-out of climate change managment plans. 
  • Form and manage well-constructed team-based interdisciplinary approaches to tackling climate change problems  


Indicative Assessment

The course assessment is progressive, allowing students to develop skills and revise task solutions a) in a self-selected generic research area and b) a focused sub-regional study.

Assessment 1. Research at interface of Archaeology and Climate Change. Students will define research areas for individual focus in week 2 of the program. These are task-led eg. identify how archaeological resources may be impacted by rising sea level. They then undertake an information gathering task, prior to presenting a Powerpoint on their selected task (15%). A written report is then submitted based on group discussion and subsequent revision of the powerpoint (2500 words 35%). 

Assessment 2. Climate Change on the Australian coast. Students  select a 100km2 area of the Australian coastline on Google Earth and produce a research report (3500 words, 40%) which critically examines past and future climate change trends incorporating archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence, with defined issues and management stategies for the chosen area. This assesses individual synthetic skills, practiced during the residential field course at Kioloa, bridging regional climate models and examination of local field evidence.

Attendance at Intensive Masters classes and fieldwork (10%).

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Course delivery will normally be through intensive one-day workshops and follow-up (early evening) seminars 

The load will be:

  • One 1/2 day course introductory workshop, at which course aims and core teaching materials are delivered (3 hours)
  • 4 one day (6 hour) intensive master classes for curriculum blocks A-D. (24 hours)
  • 2 early evening (1.5 hour) seminars as follow-up to each master class (12 hours) (attendance not required of distance learners).
  • A 2 day compulsory residential field class at the ANU field station at Kioloa, focused on applied archaeological science in catchment and coastal management. 

    The intensive one-day workshops covering each of the main syllabus blocks A-D + seminars  will all be recorded for use through interactive learning on-line.

Prescribed Texts

The course examines issues as varied as Quaternary geological evidential frameworks of climate change; interaction between human agency and climate; climate change and past human population displacement, migration and social collapse; how the archaeological record informs contemporary public perception of climates past and future; and climate change response options calibrated using archaeological site data. No single text covers this. Texts used as core reading include: 

Crate, S.A. and Nuttall, M. (eds) 2009 Anthropology and Climate Change: from Encounters to Actions. Left Coast Press. 

Lowe, J.J. and Walker, M.J.C. 1997 Reconstructing Quaternary Environments. (2nd edition) Addison Wesley Longman: Harlow.   

Roberts, N. 1998 The Holocene: an Environmental History (2nd edition) Blackwell Publishing: Oxford. 

Ruddiman, W.F. 2005 Plows, Plagues and Petroleum. How Humans Took control of Climate. Princetown University Press: Princetown.

Williams, M., Dunkerley, D., De Dekker, P., Kershaw, P., and Chappell, J. 1998 (2nd edition) Quaternary Environments. Hodder Arnold: London. 




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 $2604
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $4146
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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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.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3056 20 Jul 2015 07 Aug 2015 31 Aug 2015 30 Oct 2015 In Person N/A

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