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The Human Planet: How Deep History Shaped the Human World


Please note:

Due to unforeseen circumstances Prof. Fontijn will be unable to teach the course The Human Planet: How Deep History shaped the Human World which was scheduled for the second semester. In conference with the Board of Examiners, the following has been decided: this course can be replaced by following one of the courses from the list below.

For courses in block 3 & 4 you can enroll through uSis from December 15th.

For the courses that have already started in block 2, make sure you email the Administration Office with your student number and which course you choose, so that they can enroll you in the course in uSis, and add the course to your requirements.

If you wish to choose another focus area course, please make sure you ask permission of the Board of Examiners (this is only possible if you choose one from blocks 3 or 4).

These are the courses you can choose from:
The Archaeology of the Early Roman Empire (block 2)
Mobility, Interaction and Colonialism in the Americas (block 2)
Neolithisation in the Near East (block 1)
Current Issues in the Archaeology of the Frontier Regions of the Roman Empire (block 2)
Archaeology of the Assyrian Empire (block 3)
Key Developments in European Prehistory (block 4)
A Global Revolution? (block 3)
Current Issues in the Archaeology of the Americas (block 3)
Archaeology of the Crusades (block 4)
Urban Archaeology (block 4)
Hunter-gatherer Archaeology (block 4)

Admission requirements

  • Bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in Prehistoric Archaeology or a relevant discipline;

  • Admission to the Master Archaeology programme.

This course is relevant for students who plan a future career in (Applied) Archaeology of a particular region with a focus on prehistory/ deep history, but also for those who are more interested in how the past plays a role in present-day society and politics.


Why is wealth so unevenly spread across the world? Is (gender) inequality really something that was rooted in our deep history? Why did social development in one part of the world take such a different path than it did in another?
Perhaps surprisingly, social inequality, the human-induced change of the natural world and several other topics that are key concerns of modern society already mattered in Prehistory. Some even can be said to have originated in our deep past.

This course will outline key developments that had a deep impact on the course of human history, such as the disappearance on non-sapiens hominins, the shift to a sedentary way of life, Neolithisation of the world, massive migrations and the impact of disruptive innovations such as metallurgy.

We will discuss such developments from a global perspective, where important differences and similarities between regions and even continents will be emphasised.
This course will pay special attention to controversial and even potentially divisive topics thought to be rooted in deep history. How should we evaluate these, and how do they have impact on (toxic) debates in our present-day society? What should be our role as archaeologists?

The course will deepen your knowledge on such prehistoric developments, but particularly focus on how some of these matter to and affect the present, and how they may be made relevant to modern social challenges.
In an interactive and evidence-based way, you will learn to critically read and analyse theories on what happened in deep history, and evaluate how they may be relevant to the present.

By writing short papers on the case studies and participating in discussions, you will be trained in formulating your thoughts in writing, analyse theories, and how to position yourself in the debates that revolve around crucial developments.

Course objectives

  • In-depth knowledge of fundamental developments in world Prehistory;

  • Knowledge of and insight in interpretative approaches to innovation and adoption of new materials, ideas, and technologies;

  • Insight into the applicability of theoretical models on data;

  • Ability to report such reviews orally and in writing;

  • Ability to quickly combine and assess the opinions of others, evaluate different theories, and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research;

  • Ability to start and stimulate discussion;

  • Ability to link knowledge gained form archaeology to today’s social challenges.


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

  • Weekly discussion;

  • Weekly assignments;

  • Final essay that compares developments on a (semi-)global scale, and has the potential to understand them from a new angle.

Course load

  • 7 × 2 hours of lectures online and/or on campus (1 ec);

  • Literature and 6 short assignments (3 ec);

  • Final essay of ca. 2,000 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Final essay (60%);

  • Written assignments (40%);

  • Presentation in class (weekly wrap-up) (bonus points of up to 0.3 added to final grade).

A retake is only possible for the final essay, and only if all other requirements have been met, including attendance and submission of all assignments.

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.

The assignments have strict weekly deadlines.

Reading list

The focus will be on the most recent, cutting-edge articles on the topics at stake published in top journals. The selection of articles changes yearly pending publication of recent papers.
The reading list will be published on Brightspace before the course starts.


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.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. D.R. (David) Fontijn.


  • Compulsory attendance;

  • The course is of interest to students who are interested in our deep past (regardless of which region) and how it may affect the present. Therefore, it is potentially relevant to studies of both global, heritage or science specialisations.