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The archaeology of cult in the Near East


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Propedeuse Archaeology (1st year) obtained.


How do archaeologists define cult on the basis of their datasets? Which criteria are used and how much consensus is there about the use of these criteria? What is the difference between ritual and religion? What are the most common views on cult in archaeology and how do they affect archaeological interpretations? These questions will be explored in this seminar through a survey of some key publications and the evaluation of a number of case studies.

Course objectives

  • Understanding of the ways in which cult has been conceptualised in Near Eastern archaeology;

  • Ability to critically evaluate these conceptualisations;

  • Ability to apply these conceptualisations to a case study and evaluate their usefulness.


Course schedule details can be found in the bachelor 3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

The course starts with two theoretical and methodological sessions which will be presented by the lecturer, and a reflection on the general literature (students). This is followed by a series of presentations by students in which the general concepts are applied to specific case studies (which are selected in consultation with the lecturer). Finally, students should submit an essay of ca. 5,000 words in which they discuss their case study in relation to the general literature and the concepts introduced by the lecturer and discussions that take place during the seminar.

Assessment method

  • Participation in the discussions in the seminar;

  • Presentation;

  • Essay: the essay is due 2 weeks after the last meeting.

Reading list

  • M. Verhoeven, “Ritual and its investigation in Prehistory” (2002) in: H.G. Gebel, B.D. Hermansen & C. Hoffmann Jensen (ed.), Magic practices and ritual in the Near Eastern Neolithic, 5-47. Berlin: Ex Oriente;

  • T. Insoll, Archaeology, Ritual, Religion. London: Routledge (2004). 155 p.


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

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contractonderwijs: all information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudents is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).

Contact information

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