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The Archaeology of Hominin Diversity


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master Archaeology programme.


The use of symbols is often considered one of the critical traits of Homo sapiens. However, new archaeological data suggest that other human populations may also show a capacity for symbolic behaviour.

The course aims to give students an overview of the ongoing ‘symbolic behaviour’ debate. We will investigate several case studies suggesting symbolic behaviour in contexts older than 35,000 years. We will reflect on the theoretical framework used in these publications to infer symbolic behaviour in the deep past.

The course will be a good opportunity for students to combine theory, practice, and critical thinking. It will also provide an opportunity to practice presenting and debating skills.

Course set-up

Analysing and discussing scientific articles will be at the core of the course. Each class is a forum for the students to practice clear and concise argumentation and to develop a critical attitude when reading scientific papers.

The first class will introduce the course and the instructors. Each of the following 6 classes will be dedicated to a topic chosen in advance by the instructors.
Students formulate discussion points based on the literature provided by the instructors before class. The first part of the class is dedicated to oral presentations by students; the second part of each class is dedicated to collectively discussing the papers with the discussion led by RMA/RMSc students.
A final assignment allows students to reflect on the topics discussed in the entire course.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of some of the issues currently debated in the field of human origins about symbolic behaviour, with a focus on contexts earlier than 35,000 years;

  • Knowledge of how symbolic behaviour is addressed in the deep past, research history, and theory;

  • This course will help the students to improve their ability to:

  • sort large amounts of information, and organise it in a meaningful way;

  • present an argument concisely;

  • think critically when reading scientific papers.


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

  • Analysis of literature provided before each class;

  • Presentations by the students reviewed by the instructors;

  • Discussions in groups with the instructors;

  • Written final assignment.

Assessment method

  • Pre-class discussion points (10%);

  • Participation in class (30%);

  • Oral presentation (30%);

  • Final essay (30%).

Only the written assignment can be retaken.

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.

Written discussion points are to be handed in every Thursday evening.
There will be 1 oral presentation in class.
The deadline for the final essay is 3 weeks after the last class.

Reading list

The reading list will be published on Brightspace.


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 prof. dr. M.A. (Marie) Soressi.


Attendance will be recorded. Students can miss no more than 1 class.