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Disruptive Innovations in European Prehistory


Admission requirements

  • Admission to the Master Archaeology programme;

  • BA degree (or equivalent) in Prehistoric archaeology or a relevant discipline.

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

Over the course of 7 lectures we will discuss various theoretical frameworks, several case studies, and the relevance of the knowledge gained. Possible case studies concern domestication, metallurgy and pyro-technology, the wheel and wagons, boats and seafaring, mound building, and cremation.

You will learn to critically read and analyse articles. Writing short papers on the case studies, you are trained in formulating your thoughts and position yourself in the debates that revolve around technological innovations.
Each week a group of students presents on a chosen case study, detailing the material, objects, and/or technology in terms of its innovative effects on Prehistoric society. Thus, you learn to build and present an argument that you discuss with your peers. Taking feedback from this session, the course's final exam consists of an essay that summarises your findings.

Course objectives

  • In-depth knowledge of 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 into 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 class;

  • Linking knowledge gained form archaeology to today’s social challenges.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Presentations;

  • Discussion;

  • Peer-reviewing.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Literature and 5 small assignments (500-750 words) (3 ec);

  • Final essay of ca. 1,800 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Written assignments (40%);

  • Presentation in class (20%);

  • Final essay (40%);

  • Feedback to peers and participation in discussion (used to round off the grade: -0.5 / 0 / +0.5).

A retake is only possible for the final essay and only if all other requirements have been met, including attendance and submission of all assignments.

The assignments have strict weekly deadlines.

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

Reading list

To be published on BlackBoard.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.

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. M.H.G. (Maikel) Kuijpers.


Compulsory attendance.