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Approaches to the built environment as object: Methods and theory


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the MSc or MA programmes of the Faculty of Archaeology (this course is open to all MA and MSc students).


Objects are central to discussions about their connections to socio-economic and political aspects of society. The built environment and especially the processes involved in building itself in its surroundings, however, are less often considered in such terms.
This course focuses on current themes, analytical methods and theoretical considerations which investigate a wide regional and chronological array of architectural and landscape-based case studies.
The aim is to expose to and stimulate you into ongoing debate about both architectural and landscape phenomena that bring the two together as an undividable unit in which people (in the past) played a central role in the genesis of these phenomena and themselves: “people make places but places make people”.

The case studies range from monumental to domestic and experimental constructions, and their processes of becoming, and will be placed in their landscapes and ‘taskscapes’, whether urban or rural.
The course will also show that each of these constructions and taskscapes are not isolated dots on maps but integrated in wider systems of both natural and human interactions in a given context.
The course comprises of a small on-site component.

Course objectives

  • To provide insight into the various research questions that can be asked regarding the meaning of material culture of the built environment and its surroundings for past societies;

  • To make students familiar with the types of physical (e.g. materials employed, building techniques) and social (e.g. logistics, organisation of infrastructure) processes inherent to the built environment and its surroundings;

  • To make the students familiar with the various theoretical concepts that are important in material culture studies of the built environment and its surroundings;

  • To illustrate the applicability of the theoretical and methodological approaches to wider contexts;

  • To recognise the built environment and its surroundings as a socio-economic player in its context;

  • To recognise building processes from a material, technological and socially interwoven perspective;

  • To discuss theoretical and methodological approaches concerning the built environment and its surroundings in a critical manner;

  • To investigate one's own case study related to the central themes of the course, by applying current methods and theoretical concepts;

  • To test these findings in the local surroundings through a limited fieldwork component;

  • To present the results of one's work in class and by means of a paper.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Presentations;

  • Practical: small on-site component/field walking.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Presentation and preparatory field-walking (1 ec);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ec);

  • Essay of ca. 3,000 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Paper (60%);

  • Presentation (40%).

A retake is only possible for the essay, but compensation is allowed.

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

Reading list

To be announced before each 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.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact dr. A.N. Brysbaert.


Compulsory attendance.