nl en

Death and burial in the ancient Near East and Egypt


Admission requirements

Propedeuse (first year) obtained.


How did people in the past deal with death and how can we as archaeologist understand past burial practices? What can they tell us about past societies and their ideals?
The ‘archeology of death’ is characterised by a great diversity of perspectives, approaches, and methods. In the Near East burial practices are, moreover, extraordinarily diverse in time and space. This diversity reflects the complex cultural mosaic of the region, but also changing attitudes in society regarding the handling of the dead.

The earliest graves date back to the Epipaleolithic, and are commonly found in a settlement context, a practice also common in the Neolithic in which we encounter numerous secondary burial practices.
In the Bronze Age cemeteries seem to be commonplace, and we see an increasing differentiation in burial customs and grave assemblages. In the Bronze Age and Iron Age monumental tombs also make their appearance.
In this course we will discuss the main archaeological theories on how to interpret these burial types, and apply these theories on a number of case studies.

Course objectives

  • Gain insight into how to interpret burial practices: what models and theories archaeologists use for interpreting ancient graves;

  • Gain insight into the long-term developments in burial practices in the ancient Near East;

  • Ability to relate these burial practices to their broader socio-cultural context.


Course schedule details can be found in the bachelor 3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 300 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay, 3,000-4,000 words (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Weekly essays discussing the reading assignment of that week (30%);

  • Final essay of 3,000-4,000 words dealing with one of the case studies discussed in class (70%).

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

General reading:

  • M. Parker Pearson, The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Thrupp, Sutton Publishing (1999) (204 p.).
    This will be supplemented by topical papers for each session. The reading list will be distributed via Blackboard 2 weeks prior to the first class meeting.


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 his course, please contact dr. B.S. Düring.


Compulsory attendance.