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Complex Societies



Bachelor year 2.

Admission requirements

All BA1 World Archaeology courses obtained.


This course focuses on the archaeology of complex urban societies across the globe. After a general introduction on the archaeology of complex societies and urbanisation, the lecturers will present a series of regional case studies on

  • the Near East (Politopoulos);

  • the Mediterranean (de Haas);

  • Medieval Europe (van Oosten);

  • the Americas (Geurds).

We will tackle a number of themes in these sessions, including the emergence of social inequality, class society, and cities, the development of complex economies and long distance trade, and the transformation of cult and religion.

In this course we will discuss conceptual frameworks and theories, and present a number of important datasets through a series of case studies. The time frame of the course extends from the 4th millennium BC to the early Modern Period.

Set-up of the course

The topics and their regional case studies are introduced in two-hour lectures. Subsequently students study course and reading materials. Mini multiple choice wrap-ups will be provided on Brightspace after every class.

Course objectives

  • Gain insight into models and theories applied by archaeologists when investigating complex societies and processes of urbanisation;

  • Gain insight into the emergence of social complexity;

  • Gain insight into the development of economic complexity;

  • Gain insight into the ritual practices and religion in complex societies;

  • Ability to critically evaluate theories on complex societies against archaeological datasets on a general level.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Autonomous study;

  • Short assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 24 hours of seminar;

  • 500 pages of literature;

  • Short assignments.

Assessment method

  • 3 assignments (combined = 50% of the grade);

  • Final written exam (50%).

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA2 examination schedule.
Deadlines for assignments are included in the course syllabus.

Reading list

Per meeting there will be 1 or 2 papers to read. The reading list will be distributed 2 weeks prior to the start of the class. Make sure you are registered for this Brightspace module in time.


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 A. (Aris) Politopoulos.