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Visual culture



This course focuses on the analysis of the visual culture and impact of (1) ‘Classical’ Greek and Roman artefacts and monuments from the Mediterranean region and (2) case studies from the Near East, Egypt, India and Mesoamerica.
The main goal is for you to gain better understanding of the complexity of visual culture and its historical implications by learning how to describe and interpret archaeological objects empirically and contextually.

To that purpose, this course looks in-depth at examples of architecture, painting and sculpture from the above-mentioned regions, and explores these against the background of the development of archaeological theory – with focus on current issues and lasting influences on archaeological scholarship in general.
Various theoretical and methodological approaches are discussed (including Panofsky analysis, semiotics, material agency, entanglement).

You will gain fundamental knowledge of Mediterranean visual culture, and will then venture beyond that region in the scope of World Archaeology. Throughout, this course emphasises the development of students’ own skill sets in analysing visual culture as well as gaining new basic knowledge of material culture worldwide along with its historical scope and interpretations.

For each lecture you will read relevant literature, which will be discussed in class. There are 5 written assignments related to lectures throughout the course, which will help you learn how to write and present good academic essays. Students will work in groups to prepare brief case studies and present these class.

Course objectives

Students will learn:

  • How to undertake a formal analysis of visual culture by studying individual case studies of artefacts;

  • How to place the examples in a wider theoretical and historical context;

  • How to write and present good academic essays.


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

Mode of instruction

Lecture course with active participation and practical assignments, including student presentations in groups.
Literature with broad content in archaeological and art analysis will be provided for each class.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 10x2 hours of lectures (1.5 ec);

  • 4x2 hours of group presentations (0.5 ec);

  • Assignments (2.5 ec);

  • Paper of 2,000 words (1.5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Paper (60%);

  • Assignments (20%);

  • Presentation (20%).

A retake is only allowed for the paper and only if all other requirements have been met.
Compensation between the grades is not allowed.

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

Reading list

  • Syllabus Classical (S. Woodford 2012, The Art of Greece & Rome, Cambridge);

  • Various articles on theory and World Archaeology case studies per lecture.


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 this course, please contact mw. dr. M.E.J.J. van Aerde.


Compulsory attendance.