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The Archaeology of the Ancient Silk Roads (BA3)



Bachelor year 3.

Admission requirements

Advanced knowledge of Mediterranean and/or Near Eastern archaeology.


This is a course shared between BA2 and BA3 Archaeology students.

The course offers an overview of the most recent developments in archaeology of the earliest Silk Roads (ca. 200 BCE – 600 CE), from the ancient Mediterranean to Han China. Each lecture presents an in-depth case study of a specific site along these ancient routes, such as Berenike (Egypt), Petra (Jordan), Arikamedu (India), the Karakorum mountains (Pakistan), and the Tarim Basin (Xinjinag, China).

The aim is to integrate the most recent scientific findings with active student participation by means of discussion in class and academic writing through assignments. Cultural heritage is also a bridging factor, making you consider new methodologies and think creatively about how to interact in the present world with the ancient material you are studying.

By means of 3 written assignments, all students practise analysis of individual case studies, while the BA3 students are also encouraged to interpret their findings within a wider theoretical frame. Feedback on all assignments will be provided during this process.

BA3 students will be offered additional literature for more in-depth analyses of the sites and trade networks presented, and their assignments will require more interpretation.

Throughout the course, both groups are challenged to think outside the box and are encouraged to develop important academic skills through debate and essay writing.

Course objectives

  • To gain knowledge about archaeological sources of the earliest trade networks of the Silk Roads;

  • To enhance skills in academic discussion and essay writing;

  • To practise the critical analysis of individual case studies of sites and objects;

  • To place analyses and findings in a wider interpretative frame.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures with active participation and discussion;

  • Feedback on each assignment (in Turnitin).

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 24 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 200 pages of literature, including assignments (1 ec);

  • Essay of 2,500 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Average grade of 3 assignments (50%);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (50 %).

A retake for the assignments is not allowed. A retake for the essay is only allowed if all other requirements have been met and all assignments have been handed in.

All assignments must be uploaded on BlackBoard before the following lecture (the lecture schedule will be provided on BlackBoard).

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA3 examination schedule.

Reading list

  • Syllabus: Xinru Liu, 2010, The Silk Road in World History, Oxford University Press;

  • Additional articles per case study for each additional lecture will be provided for each class.


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.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. M.E.J.J. (Marike) van Aerde.


Compulsory attendance.