MODULE DESCRIPTION 2017-18

AUTUMN SEMESTER 15 CREDITS
AAP659 ARCHAEOBOTANY
CO-ORDINATOR: GLYNIS JONES
OTHER TUTORS:

MODULE OUTLINE

This module comprises laboratory classes involving practical handling of archaeobotanical material as well as student-led seminars reviewing key methodological debates in archaeobotany and exploring the implications of wider debates in bioarchaeology. It delivers practical skills in identification, recording, analysis and interpretation of archaeobotanical remains; explores sampling strategies and recovery techniques; considers the implications of taphonomy and different scales of analysis; evaluates such theoretical issues as analogy and uniformitarianism; emphasising the reconstruction of crop processing and the integration of animal and plant exploitation. The module is assessed by an extended essay and a problem-solving exercise.


BROAD ACADEMIC AIMS AND PRINCIPLES OF THE UNIT

This unit aims to:

  • familiarise students with basic skills of handling, identifying, recording, analysing, interpreting and reporting on archaeobotanical assemblages of cultivated plants and collected species, as well as weeds of cultivation;
  • prepare students for carrying out an archaeobotanical dissertation;
  • equip students who do not specialise in archaeobotanical analysis to be critical consumers of archaeobotanical studies and informed planners of bioarchaeological research involving archaeobotanical analysis.

MEASUREABLE LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  • follow standard procedures for the sorting and identification of charred archaeobotanical remains;
  • identify seeds and chaff of the major cultivated plants of the ‘Old World’;
  • identify the most commonly occurring collected fruit, nut, oil and fibre species of the ‘Old World’;
  • make the best use of modern reference material and identification criteria;
  • interpret archaeobotanical data in terms of likely human strategies of exploitation;
  • analyse anatomical and taxonomic representation data in terms of assemblage formation processes (plant processing and taphonomy);
  • understand the implications of recovery methods, sampling strategies and identification/recording protocols for the potential of archaeobotanical data to answer archaeological questions.

EXAMPLES OF LECTURE/SEMINAR TITLES

  • Structure of the cereal plant and the identification of cereal chaff
  • Identification of cereal chaff; identification as a process of elimination
  • Application of identification criteria to charred chaff from an archaeological sample
  • The use and abuse of analogy in bioarchaeological interpretation
  • Identification of cereal grains; identification as a two-stage process
  • Identification of pulse grains; levels of identification,  taphonomy and sources of plant material
  • Application of identification criteria to charred grain from an archaeological sample; quantification and its impact on sorting and sampling procedures. 
  • Identification of edible fruits, nuts, oil and fibre plants; establishing plant identification criteria
  • Archaeological plant assemblages: plant usage, crop husbandry and processing. 

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT SKILLS ACQUIRED

Handling and analysis of material evidence; shape recognition; quantification and sampling methods; interpretive skills; critical thinking.


STUDENT ATTENDANCE AND INDEPENDENT STUDY

Type

Hours

Laboratory Sessions 20
Seminars 4
Independent Study (including preparation for assessments) 126

ASSESSMENT

Method

% of marks

Hours/Length

Essay 33% 1000 words
Essay 67% 2000 words