ARCH30940 Archaeology and Climate Change

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module offers students the opportunity to explore the topic of climate change from an archaeological perspective. Climate change is among the most significant challenges facing human societies globally. The impacts of climate change, particularly in coastal regions, present a major threat to innumerable archaeological sites. Ironically, many of the most vulnerable archaeological sites also preserve a valuable record of how people in the past responded to significant changes in their environment. Archaeology has the potential to yield exceptionally well-resolved data which can reveal past climates and show how humans adapted in times of abrupt or adverse environmental change. At the same time, archaeologists are acutely aware that as anthropogenic climate change impacts are predicted to accelerate in the coming decades, practical steps must be taken to mitigate the loss of endangered sites.

In this module, we will address questions such as: How do archaeologists study climate change in the past? How did past societies respond to fluctuations in climatic or environmental conditions? How can archaeologists help define our understanding of the Anthropocene? How do archaeologists contribute to current strategies for mitigating climate change impacts? This module is designed to teach students to critically evaluate the most popular theoretical frameworks and arguments for describing human-environmental interactions in the past and will draw on multiple lines of evidence, including case studies spanning a wide chronological and geographic range. Students will be required to actively participate in classroom-based discussions and critically reflect on the approaches archaeologists take for engaging with environmental matters in the past, present, and future.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

After completing the module, you will be able to:

1. Understand the key methodological approaches taken by archaeologists for investigating climate change in the past.

2. Critically evaluate different theoretical frameworks used by archaeologists to investigate the role of climate in human social and cultural evolution.

3. Recognise and appraise current strategies to mitigate the loss of archaeological data to climate change impacts.

Indicative Module Content:

Session 1: Introduction: Archaeology and climate change
Session 2: Archaeology and climate adaptation in Ireland

Session 3: Proxies for palaeoclimate reconstruction
Session 4: Seminar

Session 5: Archaeology and the Anthropocene
Session 6: Seminar

Session 7: Environmental determinism and narratives of change
Session 8: Seminar

Session 9: Soils and society: Introduction to archaeological formation theory
Session 10: Seminar

Session 11: Archaeology and the ethics of climate change
Session 12: Class debate 1

Session 13: PowerPoint Presentations
Session 14: PowerPoint Presentations

Session 15: Case study: The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition in Europe
Session 16: Seminar

Session 17: Guest lecture: Carolina Mallol (Professor of Archaeological Science and Geoarchaeology, Universidad de La Laguna)
Session 18: Seminar

Session 19: Case study: Environmental change and archaeology of the Yellow River, China
Session 20: Seminar

Session 21: Public archaeology and citizen science
Session 22: Class debate 2

Session 23: Mitigating loss and the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI)
Session 24: Seminar

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)


Conversation Class




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
May include lectures, classroom based discussions, student-led debates, critical writing, and student presentations. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Journal: Students will be required to submit selected entries from a learning journal compiled throughout the duration of the module. Entries will be linked to the readings for our weekly seminar discussions. Week 11 n/a Graded No


Presentation: Students will deliver individual PowerPoint presentations (5 mins) on a topic of their choice related to Archaeology and Climate Change Week 7 n/a Graded No


Essay: Students will be required to submit an essay (3000 words) on a topic of their choice related to Archaeology and Climate Change Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

UCD School of Archaeology uses a standard format to provide feedback in all modules. This format also contains feed forward details - this will help you think about how you could improve your approach in future assignments.