nl en

Advanced Themes in Archaeology


Admission requirements

Admission to the Research Master Archaeology programme.


The Archaeology of Boom and Bust from a Comparative Perspective

Although standard models in archaeology focus on a series of threshold events (such as the Neolithic or Urban ‘revolutions’) which once occurred are thought to have ushered in new stable equilibria, archaeological data from across the globe show that past societies were far from stable, and can be characterised by a series of boom and bust episodes in which population densities, long distance trade and societal complexity appear to have fluctuated considerably.

Traditional models for explaining booms have often taken the form of globalisation theories (or predecessors thereof, such as core/periphery models or world systems theory), where bust episodes are often linked to adverse climatic conditions.
In this course we will critically evaluate these approaches, as well as alternatives ones, such as biologically inspired panarchy approaches, or historical cycle models. Furthermore, we will reflect on the question of how we bring the agency of people involved back into the equation.

The course will thus take the form of group investigation of boom and bust episodes in various regions and the potential problems of explanations and models that have been put forward to explain them.

Course set-up

Each class meeting is composed of a lecture and includes an in-class presentation and discussion.
Lectures are related to the leading topics of this year’s theme of the course.

After an introduction of the theme by the course coordinator, case studies from several world regions will be presented by Faculty staff or students partaking in the course.
Reading materials are assigned on a weekly basis and are integral to the in-class discussions.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the recent debates concerning the many facets of this year’s theme, i.e. worldwide archaeological and anthropological perspectives on boom and bust episodes;

  • Ability to evaluate and discuss a series of case studies evaluated in the class and the discourse used to explain them;

  • Ability to present one’s view in class discussions, and to moderate a discussion;

  • Ability to write and critically evaluate a scholarly article;

  • Ability to situate archaeological boom and bust narratives in relation to similar debates and dilemmas in the modern world.


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

  • Interactive class meetings;

  • Class discussions;

  • One presentation on a case study or theory related to the course topic and moderation of discussion on assigned readings;

  • Peer review.

Assessment method

  • 1,500-word essay formatted as a (publishable) scholarly article (50%);

  • Peer review of essay, 500 words (15%);

  • Presentation and discussion moderation (20%);

  • Weekly discussion point submission and participation in class discussion (15%).

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 core reading list will be distributed at least two weeks prior to the start of the course.
The readings will include both theoretical and case study papers. Additional papers will be added during the class, also by participants.


For lectures, tutorials, and exams, enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.
You are also required to confirm your exam in MyStudymap. No confirmation = no participation!

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


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


Compulsory attendance.