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Climate Change, Archaeology and Heritage at Risk in the Caribbean and Coastal Americas



Admission requirements

Admission to the Master Archaeology programme, or equivalent.


Palaeo-environmental studies have contributed detailed information in relation to how various methods and data sets can provide evidence of interactions between humans and their environment, and specifically how past climates impacted humans and their natural environment, and well as how these past human populations responded to these impacts.

Climate-induced hazards have resulted in various challenges from the past to the present day, and has generated a myriad of response strategies, some of which are evident in the archaeological record.
Through studying the role of archaeology in climate change, you will be presented with the opportunity to undertake a deeper study of past resilience while identifying ways in which this information can be useful for the present.

Drawing from specific case studies, this course will provide you with the opportunity to examine climate change through an archaeological lens. Through archaeology, researchers in the Caribbean and coastal Americas have demonstrated the value of this perspective in understanding how populations in the region experienced climatic variations and environmental challenges, and how they responded.

In this course you will develop academic writing and presentation skills, and abilities to critically assess literature.

Course set-up

Week 1:
Introduction to the course

  • Is climate change anthropogenic?

  • Overview of how tangible and intangible heritage in general are impacted by climate change

  • Archaeology and climate change in the Caribbean and coastal Americas

Week 2:
Why we need to apply an interdisciplinary archaeological and paleo-environmental and long-term approach and perspective in studying climate change impacts on populations:

  • Theoretical frameworks (human ecodynamics, historical ecology etc.)

  • Review of past populations and climate impacts through archaeological, (ethno) historical, traditional ecological data

Week 3:
Human-climate interaction in the archaeological record of the Caribbean and coastal Americas

  • Case study presentation and class discussion (pre set questions)

Week 4:
Human-climate interaction through traditional ecological knowledge and present-day communities

  • Case study presentation and class discussion (invited guest speakers from the region)

Week 5:
Heritage and climate-induced hazards: Contemporary look at risks

  • Assessing and responding to current impacts

  • Vulnerability assessments

  • Developing mitigation and adaptation strategies

  • Developing a strategy to protect archaeological heritage

  • Virtual site visit (impacted sites)

Week 6:
Partnering with local communities to address threats to archaeological sites.

  • Citizen science initiatives

  • Utilisation of archaeological data for mitigation and adaptation

Week 7:
Student presentations on a topic of their choice relevant to archaeology and climate change in the Caribbean and coastal Americas, peer reviews and final discussion.
Specific weekly readings, dates and hours for the delivery of discussion points will be provided on Brightspace in due time.

Course objectives

  • Assess the value of different data sets to understanding past human-climate interactions/approaches uses by archaeologists to understand climate change and its impacts on past populations;

  • Critically discuss how archaeological data can inform contemporary climate change strategies and actions;

  • Exercising research skills for the development of a case study from a site in the Caribbean or coastal Americas in relation to archaeology and climate change;

  • Crafting abilities to critically assess current research and literature – the student voices their properly argued opinions;

  • Ability to define research questions and one's own line of inquiry, find relevant literature and orally present the selected topic with audio-visual means, as well as the ability to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards;

  • Ability to write a fluent and critical essay utilising an archaeological body of literature.


Course schedule details can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of seven interactive meetings with presentations by the students and class discussions (debate about compulsory literature). This, in combination with student presentations, will be enriched by a discussion of current theoretical and methodological topics drawn from recent literature (in part, this will be expressed in weekly posted discussion points on Brightspace, related to the assigned literature).

The multi-focal and multi-vocal course design will result in a more comprehensive overview of the role of archaeology in understanding past human responses to climate change in the Caribbean and coastal Americas, the value of this data for addressing present-day risks, as well as undertaking a detailed study of current threats to the archaeological record, and how this information could be applied to future actions to safeguard the archaeological heritage of the region.

Assessment method

  • Final essay (ca. 2,000 words) (50%);

  • Writing assignments, one self-reflection and discussion points on literature for each week are to be posted on Brightspace (20%);

  • Active participation:
    1) seminars in small, specialist groups in which equal and active participation in both preparation and discussion is important
    2) constructive comments and exchange of thoughts in Brightspace weekly thematic forums (20%);

  • In-class presentation (subject related to the final essay/on a topic of their choice related to Archaeology and Climate Change, according to their perspectives) and peer review (10%).

A retake is only possible for the final essay and only if all requirements, including attendance, have been met.

Assessment deadlines

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button. To view the assessment deadline(s), make sure to select the course with a code ending in T and/or R.

Late submission will result in a lowering of the grade (0.5 point per day).

Dates and hours for the delivery of discussion points will be posted on Brightspace.
There will be a weekly assessment of the discussion points and participation in the class discussions and the debates in the Brightspace thematic forums. Additional assessment will be organised to support the development of ideas for the final essay.

Reading list

The reading list associated to lecture themes will be posted on Brightspace.
280 pages of compulsory literature will be announced at a later stage as we aim to include the most recent publications as possible.

Before the first class:
Please note there is compulsory reading before the first week, you will find it on Brightspace a week before the first meeting.

Compulsory reading before the first meeting:

  • Douglas and Cooper 2020

  • Resilient Caribbean Communities 2021


For lectures, tutorials, and exams, enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.
You are also required to confirm your exam in MyStudymap. No confirmation = no participation!

General information about registration can be found on the Course and Exam Enrolment page.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. C.L. (Corinne) Hofman.


Compulsory attendance.