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The Archaeology of Ancient Religions: Pagans, Jews and Christians


Admission requirements

In addition to the general rules set out for admission to the master program students are required to have a BA either in Religious Studies, Classical Languages, Ancient History, Egyptology, Assyriology or Archaeology. Minimum number of participants 3.


Archaeology has become an indispensable source for the reconstruction of past cultures.
This course will approach the subject “archaeology and religion” from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives, mainly focussing on the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The course will provide the student with some important (theoretical) debates in the field, the majority of the sessions will focus on various case studies from the wider Mediterranean region and pay attention to, amongst others, material remains of “pagan” religiosity (Celtic, Greek, Roman), the interaction between Judaism and Hellenism, the Jewish diaspora and nascent Early Christian material culture.

Course objectives

Students will be expected to develop a knowledge and understanding of:

  • Understanding theoretical questions involved when studying ancient religions on the basis of material culture;

  • Knowledge of and insight in the selected case studies presented in the class;

  • Independent research on a specific topic, related to the theme of the course.


View Timetable History or Timetable Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture elements

  • Assignments

  • Presentations

Course Load

Total: 280 hours

  • Seminars, 24 hours.

  • Study of compulsory literature, 30 hours.

  • Writing a paper (including reading/research/presentation), 226 hours.

Assessment method

Each participant has to present one short paper (not longer than 20 min., including a one-page handout, Power Points are recommended). The presentation has to be worked out into a 18-page paper (7500 words).

For MA students the final grade will be based on
A) The continuous oral contributions made during seminar sessions and an oral presentation (20%), demonstrating the following skills:

  • Understanding theoretical questions involved when studying ancient religions on the basis of material culture;

  • Knowledge of and insight in the selected case studies presented in the class;

  • The ability to give a clear oral report on own research results in English;

  • The ability to provide constructive academic feedback in a dynamic class environment.

B) A written paper (80%), demonstrating the following skills:

  • The ability to independently identify and select literature

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch

  • Independent research on a specific, self-chosen topic, related to the theme of the course;

  • The ability to engage with constructive academic feedback

ResMA students need to hand in an extra paper of 2000 words on a specific methodological or source-related topic. This paper will be assessed according to the same criteria as the first one and receive a separate grade. The final grade will the be combined of the following assessments:

  • 20% oral paper and class performance

  • 20 % extra paper on methodology / sources

  • 60% written paper”

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the essay is to be revised after consultation with the teacher.


Blackboard is used for this course:

  • Communication

  • Distribute study material

Reading list

To be announced in class.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Prof.dr. J. K. Zangenberg


Attendants who miss more than two sessions will have to repeat the course.