• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Archaeology, Biological Anthropology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Tim Denham
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

A wide range of animal and plant species have been domesticated by people in vastly different social and environmental settings. Domestication is ordinarily considered a Holocene phenomenon, largely restricted to the last c. 11,700 years. However, the human management of animal and plant species, as well as anthropic alteration of habitats, has a much greater time depth. Domestication is usually associated with food production, especially different forms of agriculture. Domesticates facilitated the expansion and intensification of cultivation and animal husbandry through time, thereby enabling the rapid growth of many human societies. Not all human societies domesticated species, and not all species were domesticated for food, plausibly including the earliest animal and plant domesticates.

In this course, we will address a series of questions including:

·        How do we define domestication?

·        What are the phenotypic and genotypic attributes of domestication and how do these vary between species/groups of species?

·        How do we use archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological and ancient DNA evidence to determine when a species was domesticated in the past?

·        How did people domesticate animals and plants in the past, where did this occur, and how long did the process take?

·        Can we identify domestication syndromes and domestication pathways for groups of plants and animals?

·        What were the historical implications of domestication for the societies involved?

·        How have domesticatory processes continued to the present-day?

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. discuss the multi-disciplinary literature on plant and animal domestication, with a focus on how phenotypes and genotypes changed during the domestication process;
  2. understand the different ways in which animal and plant species were domesticated, including regions of origin, time periods involved and associated social contexts; and
  3. identify phenotypic traits to differentiate wild and domestic species in the archaeological record (including a laboratory practical or using pre-existing datasets).

Indicative Assessment

  1. Research Poster and (5 -10 minute) Presentation (30) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Research Essay (2500 words) (40) [LO 1,2,3]
  3. Practical/Laboratory Exercises (30) [LO 1,3]

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of practical/tutorial; and

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 6 units of Archaeology (ARCH) or Biological Anthropology (BIAN) courses. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ARCH2108 or ARCH6108.

Prescribed Texts

Not applicable.

Preliminary Reading

Global Syntheses

Barker, G. 2006. The Agricultural Revolution in History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murphy, D. 2007. People, Plants and Genes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Regional Syntheses

Denham, T.P. 2018. Tracing Early Agriculture in the Highlands of New Guinea: Plot, Mound and Ditch. Oxford: Routledge.

Piperno, D.R. and D.M. Pearsall 1998. The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics. San Diego: Academic Press.

Smith, B.D. 1992. Rivers of Change: Essays on Early Agriculture in the Eastern North America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books.

Zohary, D., M. Hopf and E. Weiss 2012. Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in Southwest Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Denham, T.P., J. Iriarte and L. Vrydaghs (eds.) 2007. Rethinking Agriculture: Archaeological and Ethnoarchaeological Perspectives. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Harris, D.R. (ed.) 1996. The Origins and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism in Eurasia. London: University College London Press.

Harris, D.R. and G.C. Hillman (eds.) 1989. Foraging and Farming: The Evolution of Plant Exploitation. London: Unwin Hyman.

Stevens, C.J., S. Nixon, M.A. Murray and D.Q. Fuller (eds.) 2016. Archaeology of African Plant Use. New York: Routledge.

Zeder, M., D. Bradley, E. Emschwiller and B.D. Smith (eds.) 2006. Documenting Domestication. Berkeley: University of California Press.



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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
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Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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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
7505 26 Jul 2021 02 Aug 2021 31 Aug 2021 29 Oct 2021 In Person N/A

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