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Palaeoecology and Quaternary stratigraphy: A basic introduction


Admission requirements

BA or BSc degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


This course will summarise the methods and techniques employed by archaeo-/palaeo-botanists and zoologists when reconstructing past environments (including climate) or when considering how hominins or humans exploited various components of the ecosystems they inhabited during the Quaternary.
In addition, the geological history and the stratigraphical subdivision of the Quaternary will be presented and discussed.
The topic of the essays is assigned to the candidates.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the methods and techniques used by archaeo-/palaeo-botanists and zoologists;

  • Understanding of how these methods and techniques are used by archaeologists to generate data (direct or proxy) that answer specific research questions;

  • Awareness of the limitations of each method or technique when applied to answering archaeological research questions;

  • To understand that a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving is desirable;

  • Knowledge of the geological history and stratigraphical subdivision of the Quaternary;

  • To understand that it is fundamental to put archaeology in an ecological and chronological context;

  • To select and critically evaluate relevant literature.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • 2 thematic essays (c. 1,500 words each) presenting the discussion of a theme supported by case studies (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Written examination (50%);

  • 2 essays (50%).

Compensation between the individual grades is allowed, provided that at least one essay has a pass grade and the lowest grade is at least 4.5, conform Faculty regulations.

A retake of the exam or papers is only allowed when all requirements have been met and a first version of the papers has been submitted.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced on BlackBoard.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. M. van Kolfschoten or dr. M.H. Field.


Compulsory attendance.