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Early Empires in West Asia and the Mediterranean


Admission requirements

World Archaeology 3 obtained.


This course explores the archaeology of early empires in West Asia and the Mediterranean, focusing on Mesopotamian and Roman Empires.
After an introduction of definitions, theories, and approaches, the case studies will be presented. The focus is on empires that profoundly changed the course of history in West Asia and the Mediterranean, and which heavily influenced later empires that emerged in their wake.

These early empires were at the basis of new social contracts, including the development of slavery and serfdom at a scale previously unknown, new intensive forms of agriculture and the burgeoning of international trade, the development of metropols of unprecedented size, new forms of administrative control and new religions and ideologies.

The course takes a comparative perspective, and discusses imperial trajectories primarily through archaeological datasets, which tend to be much more heterogeneous and dynamic than historical reconstructions usually allow for.

Course set-up

Students study the class readings in preparation of the class, and prepare 3 questions on these readings that should be submitted through Brightspace.

The classes consists of 2-hour lectures. These are followed by weekly tutorials to discuss reading materials on the basis of questions submitted in small peer groups.

Course objectives

  • Gain general knowledge of early empires in Western Asia and the Mediterranean, and their key characteristics;

  • Gain insight into the social, economic and cultural impact of empires, for the subjected peoples and areas as well as the imperial societies themselves;

  • Gain insight into models and theories applied by archaeologists when investigating empires;

  • Gain insight into agricultural, economic and logistical practices of empires;

  • Gain insight into ideological and religious repertoires in imperial states;

  • Ability to critically read and review an academic paper;

  • Ability to concisely report such reviews in written format.


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

  • Study papers in preparation of class;

  • Class lectures;

  • Tutorials.

Assessment method

  • Submission of questions on readings and participation in tutorials (40%);

  • Final exam (60%).

Attendance is compulsory in class and for the tutorials. Failure to attend on multiple sessions will normally result in a fail.

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.

Reading list

The reading list will be distributed 2 weeks prior to the start of the class.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.

General information about registration can be found on the Course and Exam Enrolment page.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. B.S. (Bleda) Düring.


Compulsory attendance.