nl en

Research seminar: Palaeolithic technology


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA or BSc degree obtained, admission to the RMA-programme.


This research seminar addresses aspects of cultural adaptations of Palaeolithic hominins, using various case studies from ongoing multidisciplinary research of staff members (Soressi, Roebroeks, MacDonald and Verpoorte).
The seminar has a strong focus on the Neanderthal record, and includes discussions of lithic studies and the role of fire in the development of the hominin niche.

Course objectives

  • Working knowledge of a wide range of approaches to the fire production and use by Palaeolithic hominins;

  • Learning to deal with conflicting data and interpretations in the context of scientific debates;

  • Background knowledge necessary to understand relevant research in other disciplines, especially genetics/biology, understanding of the significance of these disciplines in human origins research, and developing ideas about ways this can be applied to questions about human origins;

  • Insight into planning a research project, writing a proposal, and developing ideas for future research.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14×2 hours of lectures, discussion meetings and practical exercises;

  • 560 pages of literature;

  • 2 papers presenting the results of case studies assigned to the candidate.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Practical exercises and assignments;

  • Discussion meetings.

Assessment method

  • Presentations and discussions during the seminar from specialised reading (75%);

  • Final written paper (25%).

Assessment will focus primarily on oral presentations and discussions in class. The course starts with an introductory class and ends with an introduction to the final assignment. Participation in each class is mandatory and included in the calculation of your final grade.
After the first introductory meeting, each class will consist of presentations, discussion and debate on specific topics (see the syllabus). For each of these classes, every student has to prepare a max. 5-minute presentation (possibly with slides) on each of the mandatory papers posted on BlackBoard. She/he will also have to build up her/his own opinion on the quality of the papers and on the topic addressed.

Final paper: write a review of an NWO Vidi grant proposal, in preparation by dr. Marie Soressi (to be introduced in the seminar on 20th March). Take into account the potential of this project to contribute to debates on the chronology of fire production, and the appropriateness of the choice of methods given the options available.
In addition, RMA-students will take into account the criteria used by NWO reviewers to assess the academic quality of the proposal (section 4.2.2 on p.11 of the 2014 call for Vidi proposals) when writing the review. Furthermore, suggest one or more specific improvements to the proposal, for example, additional multi-disciplinary methods.
This final paper will not comprise more than 4 pages (font 12, line space 1.5) excluding bibliographic references. If your paper is longer, one point will deduced for each page. However, if your paper is one page shorter than maximum (i.e. three pages), you will be awarded one extra point.

The final paper will have to be sent in before 3 April, 12 pm in digital form to dr. K. MacDonald.
In your final assignment, please do not mention your name in the beginning of your paper. Indicate only your student ID and if you are a MA or RMA student.

Assessment deadline

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

Reading list

The reading list will be published on 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 prof. dr. J.W.M. Roebroeks.