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Urban archaeology


Admission requirements

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


During this course, key developments in urban archaeology will be discussed. The main focus is on the archaeology of towns and cities in the period after 1,000 AD. Case studies will be derived from the Low Countries and North-Western Europe.

Themes at stake are research ethics and methodology. Urban archaeology often yields compelling results that appeal to a wide audience. Attracting media attention is part and parcel of excavating within a still occupied settlement. At the same time, archaeologist have to make sure that the communication of results of excavations to the media comply with academic rules.
In close parallel to this lies the fact that in order to assign meaning to the uncovered archaeological remains, written records will often be consulted. And although doing interdisciplinary research is an asset, the risks of misinterpretation must be mitigated wherever possible.
In addition, specific focus will be on the archaeology of public health and sanitation management.

The course is open to RMA-students. Although they will be participating in the same sessions, their assignments will be different. Each RMA-student will be asked to play a major role in the session discussion. In addition they will write an essay in which one theme/topic will be studied in more depth, reviewed, and new directions for research formulated.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • Knowledge of key terms, such as Gordon Childe’s urban revolution; urban graveyard theory, Body Social and Body Politic; Public affair principle, Michael Brian Schiffer’s Pompeii-premise;

  • Ability to apply key terms and concepts to a case study;

  • Knowledge of golden rules for historical archaeologists (the importance of a (historical) time line and concept of ‘Getrennt Marschieren, zusammen schlagen’);

  • Oral presentation skills;

  • Ability to work in a team;

  • Critical reading skills (research skill: ‘What if you were the editor?’);

  • Writing skills (e.g. CARS-model);

  • Ability to properly formulate and present an argument and demonstrate a precise and academic approach to an archaeological issue.

For RMA-students, in addition to the above:
Ability to

  • Assess and evaluate different opinions;

  • Review the significance of regional/local research in terms of broader issues or in other words;

  • Quickly shift from a micro scale view to a macro scale view and vice versa;

  • Formulate new directions for research.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Student presentations.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×22 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Assignments and presentation (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Entry-test and group presentation (20%). The entry test will be held at the first meeting (see BlackBoard for instructions);

  • 6 assignments (80%).

    Each week there will be either an assignment (essay or poster) or a presentation. Every student will take 1 entry test, hand in 5 assignments and give 1 oral (group) presentation. The absolute deadline for the assignments is Sundays, 11 pm, submitted through Turnitin. PowerPoint presentations should be submitted through File Exchange. All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • C. Rawcliffe, Urban Bodies. Communal Health in Late Medieval English Towns and Cities. Woodbridge (2013);

  • J. Schofield & A. Vince, Medieval Towns. The Archaeology of British Towns In Their European Setting. London (2009);

  • J.M. Swales & C.B. Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Essentials Tasks and Skills. Ann Arbor (2012).


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

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw dr. R.M.R. van Oosten.