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Medieval Lowlands


Admission requirements

  • World Archaeology 3.1 obtained;

  • This is a seminar with a limited amount of participants (20 students), for Archaeology students exclusively;

  • This is not an optional course for the Archaeology BA3 programme. If you want to take this course as an extra-curricular course in your programme, you should ask permission from the Board of Examiners. You can only be admitted with permission, with proper argumentation, and only if there are spots left.


This is a course about a region in North-Western Europe (the Netherlands, Belgium, German Rhineland) that used to belong to the periphery of the former Roman Empire and the Merovingian Kingdom.
However, in the course of the Middle Ages, this area, gifted with exceptional infrastructural advantages (rivers, coastline) developed into one of the first fully working market economies in Europe and, along with northern Italy, into the most urbanised area in Europe.

In this course we will analyse how peripheral these Lowlands actually were in the early Middle Ages, what the agency of various groups was in its post-Roman economic development, and how it was connected to the rest of Europe.

In order to do so, we will look at settlements and cemeteries from the period 500-1000 AD.
In the afternoon classes you will learn how to deal with such sites in order to extract information useful to the study of major processes.
You will also learn about peasant household economics, exchange systems, the theory of market development, as well as some categories of material culture.

Course set-up

There will be 7 main lectures (2 x 45 min. each) on various themes related to the early Medieval Lowlands. Following the lectures there will be 7 workshops (ca. 1.5 hrs each) on various aspects such as:

  • Learning to evaluate the high potential of early Medieval cemetery data to various topics discussed (which successive steps have to be taken to interpret a cemetery successfully? What themes can be studied on the basis of those cemeteries?);

  • Learning about material culture (early Middle Ages).

The time available outside these contact hours should be spent on reading the compulsory literature.

Course objectives

  • Ability to understand the debate on the economic development of early medieval Europe;

  • Ability to evaluate archaeological datasets from the Middle Ages in relation to theoretical models of economic development;

  • Obtaining basic skills in working with datasets and material culture from Medieval North-Western Europe.


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

  • Lectures;

  • Workshops/tutorials;

  • Autonomous study (literature).

Course load

  • 14 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 10 hours of workshops (1 ec);

  • 200 pages of literature (1.5 ec);

  • Written assignment (1.5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Written exam (on the contents of the classes and the compulsory literature) (75%);

  • Written assignment (on subjects related to the general topic of the class, ca. 2,500 words) (25%).

Both should be at least a 5.0, the final mark is the outcome of the weighed results. The exam and paper can be retaken once.

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.

Deadlines for assignments are included in the course syllabus.

Reading list

  • Theuws, F., 2020: "Long Distance Trade and the Rural Population of Northern Gaul", in: B. Effros/I. Moreira (eds), 2019: The Oxford Handbook of the Merovingian World, 883-915;

  • Härke, H., 2014: "Grave Goods in Early Medieval Burials: Messages and Meanings", in: Mortality: Promoting the Interdisciplinary Study of Death and Dying 19, 41-60;

  • Theuws, F., "Merovingian Settlements in the Southern Netherlands: Development, Social Organisation of Production and Symbolic Topography", in: J. Haberstroh/I. Heitmeier (eds), 2019: Gründerzeit. Siedlung in Bayern zwischen Spätantike und Frühmittelalter, St. Ottilien, 355-382;

  • Wolf, E., Peasants, Englewood Cliffs, pp. 1 – 17;

  • Loveluck, Chr./D. Tys, 2006: "Coastal Societies, Exchange and Identity along the Channel and Southern North Sea Shores of Europe, AD 600-1,000", in: Journal of Maritime Archaeology 1, 140-169;

  • Carver, M., 2015: "Commerce and Cult: Confronted Ideologies in 6th-9th-Century Europe", in: Medieval Archaeology 59, 1-23;

  • Langbroek, M.B., 2018: "Early Medieval Amber Beads in Northern Gaul", in M. Kars/R. van Oosten/M. Roxburgh/A.A.A. Verhoeven (eds.), 2018: Rural Riches & Royal Rags? Studies on Medieval and Modern Archaeology, presented to Frans Theuws, Zwolle, 105-109;

  • Mannion, M., 2015: Glass Beads from Early Medieval Ireland. Classification, Dating, Social Performance. Oxford: Archaeopress, 90-97;

  • Loseby, S.T., 2013: "Lost Cities. The End of the Civitas-System in Frankish Gaul", in: S. Diefenbach/G.M. Müller (eds.), 2013: Gallien in Spätantike und Frühmittelalter. Kulturgeschichte einer Region (2013), Berlin/Boston, 239-265.


Registration in uSis is mandatory. You can register for this course until 5 days before the first class.

Registration in uSis automatically leads to enrollment in the corresponding Brightspace module. Therefore you do not need to enroll in Brightspace, but make sure to register for this course in uSis.

You are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time. The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, you are not required to do this in uSis.

Start registration for the BA2 seminars:

  • Series 1: 27 September 2021, 07:00 hrs

  • Series 2: 17 January 2022, 07:00 hrs

  • Series 3: 28 February 2022, 07:00 hrs


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. F.C.W.J. (Frans) Theuws.


Compulsory attendance.