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Introduction to Byzantine archaeology: How did Antiquity end in the Near East?


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Propedeuse (first year) Archaeology obtained.


This course will explore various aspects of the transformation of Late Antiquity into Byzantium (ca. 300-900 AD) based on archaeological evidence. How did the Late Roman world survive in the East? And what was ‘Byzantium’?
There will be a focus on the transformation of both town and countryside, from the empire’s new capital Constantinople to rural settlements in Jordan, Syria and the Mediterranean.
Apart from famous buildings and landmarks such as the Hippodrome in Istanbul, attention will be paid to trade and economy, belief systems and everyday life conditions. Furthermore, the rise of new religions (Christianity and Islam) will be treated, as well as their impact on the cultural transformation and interaction of people in the Near East and the Mediterranean, based on archaeological evidence.


  • Introduction to Byzantine archaeology: Constantinople

  • Transformation of the Late Antique city

  • Architecture, art and power

  • Trade and economy

  • Daily life, food habits and consumption

  • Late Antique religious landscape

  • The ‘Dark Ages’

Course objectives

The objective of this course is to examine the political, religious and cultural changes that took place in the Near East and in the Mediterranean between 300-900 AD.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • Seminar (1 ects);

  • Essay (2 ects);

  • Literature (2 ects).


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

Mode of instruction

Seminar with short presentations by students.

Assessment method

  • Presentation;

  • Participation in the discussions held during the seminar;

  • Essay (3,000-4,000 words).

Assessment deadline

The essay is due 2 weeks after the last meeting.

Reading list

  • L. Lavan & W. Bowden, Theory and Practice in Late Antique Archaeology. Leiden/Boston: Brill (2003);

  • J. Herrin, Byzantium. The surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. London: Penguin Books (2007). Translated into Dutch in 2009: Byzantium. Het Verrassende Leven van een Middeleeuws Rijk. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Bulaaq.

Selective chapters from:

  • L. Lavan, Recent Research in Late Antique Urbanism. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series_ 42 (2001);

  • C. Wickham, Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2005).


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.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw dr J.A.C. Vroom.