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Research Seminar: The Visual Power of Objects in Antiquity: Meaning, Materiality and Style


Admission requirements

Admission to the Research Master programme Archaeology.


The “material turn” taking place within the social sciences and humanities (that is: posing fundamental questions about what things are, what they do, how they relate to each other and to us, how they should be analysed and why it is worthwhile studying them) is rapidly changing the discipline of Archaeology at present. This paradigm, however, still has a difficult and underexplored relationship with important archaeological concepts such as meaning, the visual and style.

In this seminar we will critically analyse these relations from both a theoretical angle and in a practical way (that is: related to your own research) and try to overcome the current impasse. We will do so by reading and discussing two recent key publications dealing with these questions: the 2014 book by Bahrani (mainly dealing with Near Eastern “art”) and the 2018 monograph by Hölscher that investigates the cultures of Greece and Rome.

Set-up of the course

The course consists of weekly 2-hour sessions prepared by reading of these monographs (and additional literature). The sessions consist of discussion of these readings and might also include active learning assignments regarding your own research.

Course objectives

  • Advanced knowledge of “the material turn”;

  • Advanced knowledge of the theoretical debates concerning meaning, the visual and style in archaeology;

  • Ability to (critically) apply these debates to one's own (RMA) research;

  • Ability to analyse, summarise and critically comment on the two monographs central to this course;

  • Ability to express a critical and well-argued view on the above-mentioned debates.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

PhDs and PostDocs from the Faculty working on these issues will join the course and the debate.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 28 hours of tutorial (2 ec);

  • Literature (4 ec);

  • Presentation (2 ec);

  • Essay of c. 3,600 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Critical participation in the tutorial (60%);

  • Presentation (20%);

  • Essay (20%).

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the RMA and RMSc examination schedule.

Reading list

  • Bahrani, Z. 2014. The Infinite Image. Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity. London;

  • Hölscher, T. 2018. Visual Power in Ancient Greece and Rome. Between Art and Social Reality. Oakland California.


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 prof. dr. M.J. (Miguel John) Versluys.


Compulsory attendance.