Environmental archaeologists routinely apply techniques and interpretations derived from the biological and geophysical sciences to archaeological problems. The interpretation of archaeological evidence with respect to human–environment interactions in the past, including environmental change, is referred to under the umbrella term ‘environmental archaeology’. Although definitions vary, human activities are considered within broad environmental contexts, which can range from the region, to the landscape, to the landform, to the site … and even down to individual particles.
In this course, we will cover the concepts, methods and techniques commonly adopted by environmental archaeologists, as well as engage in practical exercises (either obtained in the laboratory or using pre-existing datasets). Drawing on examples from across the world, we will consider how lines of environmental archaeological evidence have informed our understanding of how people utilised resources in the past, including: how various proxies contribute to local, regional and global records of environmental change; and, how people impacted and modified specific environments in the past. Several fields within environmental archaeology are of particular focus: archaeobotany, geoarchaeology, palaeoecology and zooarchaeology.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- critically evaluate the main concepts, methods and techniques of environmental archaeology;
- assess the two-way character of human-environment interactions in the past, with particular reference to limitations of the multidisciplinary evidence;
- evaluate how environmental archaeology can contribute to our understanding of long-term environmental change, with particular reference to issues facing the modern world; and,
- undertake a practical analysis of a dataset to address an environmental archaeological problem.
- Essay, 3500 words (40) [LO 1,2,3]
- Wattle Quizzes x 2 (20) [LO 1,2,3]
- Laboratory/analytical report, 2500 words (40) [LO 1,2,4]
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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 lecture and 12 hours of tutorials; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.
Requisite and Incompatibility
Branch, N., Canti, M., Clark, P & Turney, C. 2005. Environmental Archaeology: Theoretical and Practical Approaches. London: Hodder.
Evans, J. & O'Connor, T.P. 1999. Environmental Archaeology: Principles and Methods. Stroud (UK): Sutton Publishing Ltd.
Lowe, J.J. & Walker, M.J.C. 1997 (2nd Ed.). Reconstructing Quaternary Environments. Harlow (UK): Prentice Hall.
Oldfield, F. 2005. Environmental Change: Key Issues and Alternative Approaches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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