Institute of Archaeology

Climate Change and Human Responses in Holocene Africa

This course will provide a critical overview of evidence for climate change and human response across Sub-Saharan Africa during the Holocene (12,000 BP to present). Case studies will include environmental and archaeological data, as well as ethnographies of historic and contemporary subsistence economies (hunter-gatherers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and mixed agriculturalists). The ‘human factor,’ both in terms of environmental impact and ideological coping strategies with climatic variability, will form a key component of our study.

Aims and Objectives of the course

  • Familiarise students with current evidence for climate change and human responses to this change during the last 12,000 years in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Explore the different ecologies of the continent and varied human economies existing within them.
  • Consider ideological components of social responses to environmental factors.
  • Understand the opportunities and limitations posed by archaeological data for studying palaeoenvironments and past ecological relationships.

Learning Outcomes

  • Possess an understanding of the main Sub-Saharan ecosystems ranging from arid deserts to equatorial rainforests.
  • Critically assess varied evidence for climate change on the African continent and consider their socio-cultural ramifications.
  • Comprehend ideologically-driven, frequently non-optimal, responses to climate change by societies.
  • Be able to evaluate and discuss climate change in Africa, its past and potential future human impacts.
  • Have a basic knowledge of the relevant types of data, their limitations and key sequences.

    Teaching Methods

  • Powerpoint-aided lectures with seminar components
  • Two essays

Course information

For registered students

  • Moodle page:
  • Reading list:


  • Not running in 2017-18

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