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The University of Southampton

ARCH3008 Stonehenge to Skara Brae: the Neolithic of Britain

Module Overview

The Neolithic period heralds some of the most momentous changes in human history; it is the period when prehistoric people began to live in permanent settlements and adopted agriculture. In Britain, this period is dominated by rich evidence for large monuments and ceremonial and ritual activity. This module discusses the character of evidence from across Britain and Ireland, from southern England to the Northern Isles; from Stonehenge to Skara Brae. The module examines the latest research in Neolithic studies, from dietary and skeletal analysis and radiocarbon dating to the new evidence for settlement across southern Britain and Ireland, providing the evidence and interpretative tools required to understand this exciting period of prehistory.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the Neolithic of Britain and Ireland, and the social and material changes which occurred over this period. Assessed throughout course, especially in examination.
  • the changing historical frameworks of interpretation within which the Neolithic period is discussed. Assessed throughout course, especially in examination.
  • the processes by which interpretative statements are made. Assessed in essays and examination.
  • general theoretical statements to more specific bodies of evidence. Assessed in Assignment 1.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • apply a general theoretical argument to a specific body of data
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read critically and evaluate data
  • read and write imaginatively
  • participate in, chair and direct seminar discussions
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognise and identify Neolithic material culture and monuments


This module deals with the Neolithic period in Britain (4000-2300 BC), a period of which traces of domestic activity are scare, and the archaeological record is dominated by large monuments, burials, formal deposits and complex artefacts which circulated in exchange networks. The module shows how we can come to terms with this kind of evidence, while at the same time demonstrating the specific character of the period under study.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Classes • Written assignments Learning activities include • Lectures • Classes • Written assignments • Independent study Innovative or special features of this module • Student-led presentations

Wider reading or practice25
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Completion of assessment task25
Follow-up work30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Bayliss, A., Bronk Ramsey, C., van der Plicht, J. and Whittle, A. (2007). Bradshaw and bayes: towards a timetable for the Neolithic. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. ,17 , pp. 1—28.

Thomas, J. (1998). Towards a regional Geography of the Neolithic. Understanding the Neolithic in Northwestern Europe. , pp. 37- 61.

Whittle, A. (2003). The Archaeology of People: Dimensions of Neolithic Life. 

Bradley, R. (1984). The Social Foundations of Prehistoric Britain (Chapters 1-3). 

Bradley, R. (1998). The Significance of Monuments (Chapters 1-8). 

Parker-Pearson, M. (1993). Bronze Age Britain (Chapters 1-3, 7). 

Smith, I. (1973). The Neolithic. British Prehistory. .

Cooney, G. and Grogan, E. (1994). Social Perspectives in Irish Prehistory. 

Cooney, G. (1999). Landscapes of the Irish Neolithic. 

Bradley, R. (2005). Ritual and Domestic Life in Prehistoric Europe. 

Bradley, R. (1982). Position and possession: assemblage variation in the British Neolithic. Oxford Journal of Archaeology. ,1 , pp. 27-38.

Bradley, R. (1991). The Passage of Arms (Chapters 1 and 2 only). 

Bradley, R (2007). The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland. 

Barrett, J.C. (1994). Fragments from Antiquity: an archaeology of Social life in Britain, 2900-1200 BC (Especially chapters 1-4). 

Thomas, J. (1991). Rethinking the Neolithic. 

Bradley, R. (1993). Altering the Earth: the origins of monuments in Britain and continental Europe (Especially chapters 1-5). 

Burgess, C. (1980). The Age of Stonehenge. 

Thomas, J. (1999). Understanding the Neolithic (Chapters 1-6). 

Jones, A. (2007). Memory and Material culture: tracing the past in prehistoric Europe. 

Piggott, S. (1954). Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles. 

Whittle, A. (1996). Europe in the Neolithic: the creation of new worlds (1, 7, l0). 

Bradley, R. (2000). The Archaeology of Natural Places. 

Edmonds, M. (1999). Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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