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Medieval Lowlands



Bachelor year 2.

Admission requirements

  • Bachelor Archaeology first year obtained;

  • This is a seminar with a limited amount of participants (20 students), for Archaeology students exclusively.


Medieval Lowlands is a course about a region in North-Western Europe (the Netherlands, Belgium, German Rhineland) that used to belong to the periphery of the former Roman Empire and the Merovingian Kingdom.
However, in the course of the Middle Ages, this area, gifted with exceptional infrastructural advantages (rivers, coastline) developed into one of the first fully working market economies in Europe and, along with northern Italy, into the most urbanised area in Europe.

In this class we will analyse how peripheral these Lowlands actually were in the early Middle Ages, what the agency of various groups was in its post-Roman economic development, and how it was connected to the rest of Europe.
In order to do so, we will look at settlements and cemeteries from the period 500-1000 AD. In the afternoon classes you will learn how to deal with such sites in order to extract information useful to the study of major processes. You will also learn about peasant household economics, exchange systems, the theory of market development as well as some categories of material culture.

Set-up of the course

There will be 6 main lectures (2 hours in the mornings) on various themes related to the early Medieval Lowlands.
Following the lectures there will be 5 workshops/tutorials/short lectures (in the afternoons) on various aspects such as:

  • Learning to evaluate the high potential of early Medieval cemetery data to various topics discussed (which successive steps have to be taken to interpret a cemetery successfully? What themes can be studied on the basis of those cemeteries?)

  • Learning to evaluate settlement sites

  • Learning about material culture (early middle ages)

The course includes a visit to the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities). A one day (last day) excursion to several interesting sites along the Rhine River.

The time available outside these contact hours must be spent on reading the compulsory literature.

Course objectives

  • Ability to understand the debate on the economic development of early Medieval Europe;

  • Ability to evaluate archaeological datasets from the Middle Ages in relation to theoretical models of economic development;

  • Obtaining basic skills in working with datasets and material culture from Medieval North-Western Europe.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Workshops/tutorials;

  • Autonomous study (literature);

  • Excursion.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 12 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 17 hours of tutorials/workshops and excursion (1 ec);

  • 200 pages of literature (1.5 ec);

  • Written assignment (1.5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Written exam (on the contents of the classes and the compulsory literature) (75%);

  • Written assignment (on subjects related to the general topic of the class, ca. 2,500 words) (25%).

Both should be at least a 5.0, the final mark is the outcome of the weighed results. The exam and paper can be retaken once.

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

The compulsory literature will be announced on BlackBoard prior to the start of the course.


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.

  • Start registration for the BA2 seminars:
    Series 1: 16 September 2019, 07:00 hrs
    Series 2: 13 January 2020, 07:00 hrs
    Series 3: 24 February 2020, 07:00 hrs

  • 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 prof. dr. F.C.W.J. (Frans) Theuws.


Compulsory attendance.