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The Archaeology of the Assyrian Empire


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master Archaeology programme, or equivalent.


This course will focus on the archaeology of the Assyrian Empire (ca. 1350 – 600 BCE). We will investigate how archaeology can inform us about ancient imperialism and how Assyria managed to become the predominant empire in the Ancient Near East.
Assyria has been investigated mainly on the basis of its textual sources and art rather than sherds, buildings, and graves. In this course we will therefore foreground material culture and landscape data on Assyria.

In particular we will discuss:

  • The archaeology of Assur before the empire;

  • How the Assyrian Empire was modelled;

  • The Middle Assyrian expansion;

  • Practices of social engineering in the Assyrian Empire;

  • The economy of the Assyrian Empire;

  • Ethnicity in the Assyrian Empire;

  • Capital creation in the Assyrian Empire.

Course set-up

There are 7 meetings. You will be asked to read one or two relevant articles prior to each meeting. In the first half of the meeting the lecturer will present further background to the theme of the meeting. Subsequently, two or three students will present a short in promptu discussion of the article they had to read for the meeting and embed this in the broader frame sketched by the lecturer. This is then followed by a group discussion.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the main theories on empires and imperialism in the Bronze Age and Iron Age Near East;

  • Ability to critically compare weaknesses and strengths of such theories;

  • In-depth overview of the archaeology and history of the Assyrian empire.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Preparatory reading / writing of critical summaries prior to class;

  • Lectures;

  • Student presentations;

  • Class discussion.

Course load

  • 7 x 3 hours of lectures (1,5 ec);

  • Essay of 2,500 words (1,5 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature and critical summary (to prepare discussion) (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Active participation in the course and discussions (10%);

  • Quality of the discussion presented (20 %);

  • Essay (70 %).

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

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

Reading list

The reading list will be given to the participating students 2 weeks prior to the beginning 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.

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

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to apply.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. B.S. (Bleda) Düring.


Compulsory attendance.