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Early cities and states



The contents of this course are complex societies, which formed cities and states, as they occur in the Near Eastern and Mediterranean world between about 4000 BC and 300AD. During the class we will discuss the processes that were important for the development of these early societies. This will be achieved through the discussion of different theories and their relevant archaeological data.

In both regions there are site-specific and broader methodological differences. These result in some interesting discrepancies but also some striking similarities.
In this class we will not only focus on tracing the development of complex societies but also on the inherent archaeological difficulties that arise from the study of these processes. Topics that will be covered are: urbanisation, central places, state formation, trade, collapse, multiculturalism and imperialism.

Course objectives

  • Ability to critically evaluate the themes mentioned above, on the basis of a number of examples from the archaeology of the Near East and the Mediterranean;

  • Ability to understand the different explanatory models that exist for the creation of (and trends in) complex societies in all their facets.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA2 time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures (2 ects);

  • 420 pages of literature (3 ects).

Assessment method

Written exam.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA2 examination schedule.

Reading list

  • R. Matthews, The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Theories and Approaches. London: Routledge (2003) (204 p.);

  • This will be supplemented with additional articles. A reading list will be provided 2 weeks before class.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.


For more information about his course, please contact dr. B.S. Düring or M.K. Termeer PhD.


Compulsory attendance.