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Advanced Urban Archaeology


Admission requirements

Please note: use the activity number (to be found in the timetable) to register for the correct Brightspace module!

Admission to the Research Master Archaeology programme.


The 'urban revolution’ swept through Europe after 1,000 CE and the Low Countries became, together with Italy, the most urbanised area in pre-industrial Europe. Along with history and cartography, archaeology is essential to understand the transformation that villages underwent in becoming towns and cities. However, it was only in the 1980s that archaeologists began to systematically record uncovered material remains in medieval towns; urban archaeology as an academic discipline only developed after that. An ambitious new generation of scholars will be welcome.

The focus of the course will be on the archaeology of public health, waste management, water management and ‘smellscape-management’. A ‘whole town approach’ will be advocated.
An ongoing, underlying theme will be that urban archaeology not only deals with archaeological data but also with information from historical sources. In order to assign meaning to uncovered archaeological remains, written records often have to be consulted. Although interdisciplinary research is an asset, the risks of misinterpretation must be mitigated whenever possible.

A second course theme is that many stakeholders must be taken into account in urban archaeology.
Case studies from the Low Countries and north-western Europe will be used.

Course objectives


  • The student will be able to critically reflect on a case study and place, as well as apply it, within a broader academic, philosophical, theoretical and discipline transcending framework and in new multidisciplinary contexts.

Specific knowledge
The student will gain:

  • Thorough knowledge and understanding of current debates in urban archaeology in general and the archaeology of public health in particular, as well as the ability to interpret any relevant archaeological data.;

  • Thorough knowledge of golden rules for historical archaeologists (the importance of a historical time line and the concept of ‘Getrennt Marschieren, zusammen schlagen’).

Skills and methods

  • Multidisciplinary skills: Placing a case study within and critically consider developments in a historical framework;

  • Ability to develop and apply original creative ideas within one's own archeological research;

  • Ability to transform concepts into research/field strategies and capability of stepping out of the box to combine alpha beta and gamma applications in a creative and confident way.

Academic skills

  • Oral presentation skills, ability to present a clear oral report suitable to a public of international specialists and peers;

  • Ability to independently function in academic networks or teams;

  • Secondary-source research;

  • Learning from feedback and where necessary revise one's own position, and the ability to review the research of others in the same constructive business-like manner;

  • Critical reading skills (What if you were the editor?);

  • Writing skills (e.g., the importance of good headings, becoming familiar with the CARS model);

  • Ability to properly formulate and present an argument and demonstrate a precise and academic approach to an archaeological issue.

Social orientation

  • Ability to convey research data and interpretations to an audience of non-specialists;

  • Ability to reflect on the ethical-social aspects of archaeology and debate the latest archaeological developments and their significance to society as well as communicate and discuss this from an international perspective.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • One hour feedback prior to the group presentation;

  • Student presentations.

Course load

  • 7 × 2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of readings (2 ec);

  • Entry test, assignments and presentation, including 1 hour feedback prior to the group presentation (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • An entry test during the first class (10%). One week prior to the start of the course, the assigned reading list for the test will be announced on Brightspace;

  • Group presentation (10%);

  • 5 assignments: 4 essays and 1 poster. References are required for all assignments (5×16% = 80%).

The essays and presentation must be submitted through Turnitin.

More detailed instructions for the essays and the presentation will be available in the course manual on Brightspace.

This course comprises 7 assignments. A retake of an assignment is not possible, a fail for an assignment can be compensated by other assignments.

Each week there will be either an assignment (essay or poster) or a presentation due. The deadline for the assignments is 11 pm, the Sunday prior to the class. Please note that extensions on assignments will not be given.

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

Reading list

2 chapters from:

  • C. Rawcliffe, 2013. Urban Bodies: Communal Health in Late Medieval English Towns and Cities. Woodbridge.

Further reading will be announced throughout 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.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. R.M.R. (Roos) van Oosten.


Compulsory attendance.