Course syllabus

The Origins of Civilisation is a course about changes in the late Pleistocene and Holocene (approximately the last 20 000 years) that had a profound impact on humanity. During this time, many communities shifted from a hunter-gather way of life to village based agricultural. Popular accounts see this transition as a revolution, an inevitable progression from simple to complex societies. However, as we shall learn in the course, no such unilineal progression occurred. The notion of a ‘transition’ implies two clearly defined categories – simple societies before and complex societies afterward perhaps with an ‘intermediate’ form in the middle. The aim of this course is to deconstruct this simple linear view. We will consider what socio-cultural changes were involved as Holocene societies developed in different parts of the world. A second aim is to consider the nature of the relationship between humans and the environment. The transition from the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene was a period of marked environmental change. Modern climatic patterns were established but also the nature of human impact on the environment shifted. We will consider what practices were sustainable and which led to substantial changes in the relationship between people and the environment.

Click here to download the course handout


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Dr Rebecca Phillipps

64 9 923 4287                             

Find out about what I do at:

Twitter: @beccaphillipps

Office: HSB 853

Office hours: Monday 2-3 pm


Teaching assistant

Rose Young


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Course summary:

Date Details