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Disruptive innovations in Prehistory


Admission requirements

BA degree (or equivalent) in Prehistoric archaeology or a relevant discipline.
SAP and exchange students: admission after approval by the Graduate School of Archaeology.

As this course builds on the knowledge of Key developments in European Prehistory it is advisable to take that course in block 1.


During this course students will deepen their knowledge on some of the key developments in Prehistoric Europe, focusing on fundamental innovations that took place. We will focus in depth on the processes behind innovation and adaptation, and explore how a new material, technology, or ideology (re)shaped societies, the landscape, and ultimately Europe.

The course is divided into three parts.
In the first part (2 lectures) we will learn about and discuss theoretical frameworks through which innovation may be understood. During the second part (3 lectures) we will explore several case studies, such as farming, the use of metal, mound building, cremation, or the wheel. The third part (2 lectures) is used for presentations.
In groups of two or three participants students choose one of the case studies, or a particular aspect of it (e.g. the sword (metal); land use (farming)), and think through the chosen material, object, technology in terms of its innovative effects on society.

Students learn to critically read and analyse articles. By writing short papers on the case studies, you are trained in formulating your thoughts. For the presentation students are expected to apply a specific theoretical framework on one of the case studies. Here, you learn to build and present an argument, to be discussed with your peers. Taking feedback from this session the course’s final exam entails an essay that summarises the findings of your group.

RMA-students who take this class are expected to elaborate on the assignments, and in particular the theoretical background to the articles we will read. They should also start and stimulate discussion in class.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • In-depth knowledge of a few fundamental innovations in Prehistoric Eurasia from the Neolithic to the Iron Age;

  • Knowledge of and insight in interpretative approaches to innovation and adoption of new materials, ideas, and technologies;

  • Insight in the applicability of theoretical models on data;

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

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

  • Ability to present your results in front of the class.

For RMA-students:

  • Ability to assess and evaluate different theories and how these affect archaeological reasoning;

  • Ability to report such reviews orally and in writing;

  • Ability to quickly combine and assess the opinions of others, evaluate different theories, and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research;

  • Start and stimulate discussion.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Presentations;

  • Discussion.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7 × 2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • Literature and small assignments (3 ects);

  • Final essay (1 ects).

Assessment method

  • Written assignments (40%);

  • Presentation in class (20%);

  • Final essay (40%);

  • Participation in discussion (bonus of 0.5 /used to round up grade)

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

Reading list

Pdfs of articles accessible through the University Library.


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.