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The archaeology of empires in the Near East


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA in archaeology, the BA2 Early Civilisations profile is recommended.


This course will focus on the phenomenon of Empires in the Near East, from the earliest clear examples in the Bronze Age to those of Medieval and Post-Medieval times. The aim is to address how we can study these Empires with archaeological data, and what these data can tell us about the nature of these Empires. We will discuss theories of Empire and juxtapose these to particular archaeological case studies. Students will be expected to take an active part in these assessments both in discussions and in essays.
Apart from the Empire theory, to be discussed in the first meeting, imperial case studies that will be addressed in the course include: Assyria, Hittites, Byzantium and the Ottomans.

RMA-students who take part will also be expected to demonstrate their academic skills in an international symposium on the archaeology of imperialism, to be held on 11 and 12 April 2014.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • Knowledge of the main theories on imperialism;

  • The ability to critically compare weaknesses and strengths of such theories;

  • The ability to critically apply Empire theories to a particular case study;

  • The ability to evaluate what archaeology can add to studies of imperial states, and:

  • The ability to propose possible avenues of future investigation of Empires in the Near East.

For RMA-students:
In addition to all of the above, RMA students will be expected to demonstrate their academic skills by participating in an international symposium, asking questions and debating with key scholars.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7 classes (1 ects);

  • 280 pages literature and summaries (2 ects);

  • Final essay of 3,000 words (2 ects).


Course schedule details can be found in the Master time schedule.

Mode of instruction

The course has a dual character. Students will be asked to read a relevant article prior to each meeting. In the first half of the meeting the lecturer will present further background to the theme of the meeting. Subsequently student(s) will present a short discussion of the article they read for the meeting and they will embed this in the broader frame sketched by the lecturer. This is then followed by a group discussion. Finally, the students will submit an essay of 3000 words on one of the themes addressed in the course.

Assessment method

For MA -students:

  • Active participation in the course and discussions (15%);

  • Quality of the critical summaries (15%);

  • Quality of the essay submitted (70%).

For RMA-students:

  • Active participation in the course and discussions (15%);

  • Quality of the critical summaries (15%);

  • Participation in the Archaeology of Empires symposium on 11 & 12 April 2014, and the essay written about an assigned presentation on that conference (70%).

Assessment deadline

The critical summaries have weekly deadlines.

For MA-students, the final essay is due 2 weeks after the last class. The RMA final essay is due 2 weeks after the 11 & 12 April symposium.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

The reading list will be distributed 2 weeks prior to the first meeting via Blackboard.


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 dr. B.S. During or dr. J.A.C. Vroom.