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Artefact Studies


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Having passed the course Materiaalkunde 1 or possessing basic knowledge of artefacts like raw material properties and manufacturing techniques.


How do we study our artefacts in order to arrive at meaningful statements about past behaviour? Emphasis will lie on the relationship between empirical observations about the artefacts and the research questions that can be addressed. A central topic will be the reconstruction of the life cycle of objects: what kind of raw material was selected, how was the object made, what was the investment of skills and knowledge, can we say anything about use, and is there any evidence for a special treatment of the artefact? To what extent do taphonomical processes play a role? There will also be considerable emphasis on the experimental approach of pottery technology and lithic studies. Lastly, attention will be given to the role of experimental archaeology in public presentations like museums and open air centres. The course is focused on ceramics (block I) and lithic materials and experimental archaeology (block III).

Course objectives

  • To deepen the knowledge about how objects are made and used, in order to recognise the empirical basis for the reconstruction of their life-history;

  • Knowledge of the relationship between the research questions and the empirical observations necessary to address these questions (what attributes do we need to study and why?);

  • Knowledge of and insight in the experimental and analytical methods with which to derive information from artefacts, as pertaining to ceramics and lithic materials;

  • To obtain basic knowledge of the role of experimental archaeology in scientific research and public outreach.


Course schedule details can be found in the bachelor 2 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Practical assignments.

Assessment method

Written assignments.

Reading list

  • L. Hurcombe, Archaeological artefacts as material culture. London: Routledge (2007). Hoofdstukken 1-2, 7-11.;

  • A.K. Outram, Introduction to experimental archaeology (2008). World Archaeology 40/1, 1-6 URL:


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw prof. dr A.L. van Gijn.