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Themes in European Prehistory


Admission requirements

BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


This is a course in which key developments in Prehistoric Europe will be discussed, taking place between the 7th and the end of the 1st millennium BC.
The focus is on agrarian communities. Themes that may be addressed include Neolithisation, the rise and history of ritual landscapes, Prehistoric religion and cosmology, invention and adaptation of metallurgy, Bronze Age and Iron Age “world systems”, ethnogenesis (Celts, Germans, Scythians), and the legacy of Prehistory in modern Europe.

Central to the course will be how to deal with and encapsulate such broad issues in regional, practical, research. The lectures will be closely linked to current research of our section members.
This is an interactive course, which means that part of each lecture session is dedicated to discussion on the basis of literature and an assignment, and part to formal lecturing in which a broader background is presented on the issues under discussion.
This way students will build their knowledge of and insight into the most fundamental interpretative themes of European Prehistory. Students will be introduced to the themes at stake, and trained to formulate their own views on them. Creative thinkers are more than welcome.

Each week students will write a paper in which they try to answer/explore the question that has been posed about the literature. By the end of the course, each student is to write an essay on a theme of her/his own choice, reflecting on a particular research question.
Due to its broad perspective, the course is not only interesting for students who plan a future career in the archaeology of Prehistoric Europe (both in terms of fieldwork/material culture and heritage), but also for students who are interested in later periods of European history, or in the links between the Mediterranean and Near East on the one hand, and “Barbaric” Europe on the other.

The course is open to RMA-students. Although participating in the same sessions, their assignments will be different and more demanding. We also expect RMA students to start and stimulate discussion. In addition, they will write a different type of essay in which a theme is explored in more depth and new directions for research are being formulated.

This course is set up in alliance with the course Current issues in Prehistoric research. Whereas Themes takes a thematic, practical, and constructive approach, Current issues is critical, analytical, and deconstructive. Students are advised to follow both to get the most out of them.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • Knowledge of and insight in key developments in European Prehistory from the Neolithic to the Iron Age;

  • Critical assessment of current research on European Prehistory with respect to practical applicability and theoretical background;

  • Ability to voice one’s properly argumented opinion on these topics;

  • Ability to link broad research themes to regional and local fieldwork/material culture studies or heritage issues related to Prehistory;

  • Insight in the applicability of theoretical models on data;

  • Ability to formulate well-structured arguments orally, and in writing;

  • Ability to formulate discussion points.

For RMA-students:

  • Acquiring knowledge of and insight in key developments in European prehistory from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and being able to situate these in broader, more global developments, or contextualise these in social-historical discussions;

  • Ability to review the significance of such regional/local research in terms of such broader issues;

  • Ability to quickly combine and assess the opinions of others on Prehistoric key themes;

  • Ability to report such reviews orally and in writing;

  • Ability to assess and evaluate different theories and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research;

  • Ability to stimulate and facilitate discussion.


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

Mode of instruction

Formal lectures and discussion on the basis of written assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

For MA-students:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 5 small assignments based on predefined questions about the literature (1 ects);

  • Literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay: thematic, elaborating on a single theme and question (1 ects).

For RMA-students:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 5 small assignments based on special RMA questions about the literature (1 ects);

  • Literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay: new directions of research (1 ects).

Assessment method

  • 5 small assignments (50%);

  • Final essay (50%);

  • Participation in discussion (bonus of 0,5/used to round up grade).

The assignments have strict weekly deadlines.

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

Reading list

The reading list be published on Blackboard.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. M.H.G. Kuijpers.


Compulsory attendance.