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Byzantine Archaeology


Admission requirements

  • World Archaeology 3.1 obtained;

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

  • This is not an optional course for the Archaeology BA3 programme. If you want to take this course as an extra-curricular course in your programme, you should ask permission from the Board of Examiners. You can only be admitted with permission, with proper argumentation, and only if there are spots left.


This course explores various aspects of the dynamic and transformative period between Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean and the Near East, based on archaeological evidence. Early Byzantium (300-1000 CE) is the main focus.

Its Aegean heartland and its strategically located capital Constantinople, combined with Roman imperial heritage, gave Byzantium a uniquely favourable and dominant position. The Byzantine Empire proved resilient during various disastrous centuries. It formed a focal point of long-distance contact and exchange. Throughout its long existence, Byzantium did influence and was influenced by neighbouring societies and those more far away. As such, this medieval superpower is vital in any discussion on Afro-Eurasia during this period.

Transformation and continuation, conquest and disintegration, growth and contraction were the historical ebbs and flows of the Early Byzantine world. Some questions are: How much of the Late Roman past continued and what has changed? What do we mean by ‘Byzantium’? How (dis)similar was it from the Roman Empire and other post-Roman states? Can we locate a ‘break’ between the ancient and medieval worlds?

Apart from famous monuments and historic landmarks, attention is paid to economy and commerce, conflict and natural catastrophes, power systems and state formation, and the rise, spread and impact of new religions. The Plague of Justinian, the Silk Roads, the Arabic expansion and the 7th-century Crisis will be discussed. How all these events shaped everyday life and associated material culture forms the basis of this course.

These themes and questions will be explored from an archaeological perspective. Developments in both town and country, from large urban centres to rural settlements, will be discussed.
Unsurprisingly, for Mediterranean archaeology, the sea is essential. We will explore the differences between well-connected coastal zones and remote inland areas. How did people, objects and ideas move? What was the impact of maritime travel and trade? What did it mean to live in ‘isolated’ and ‘self-sufficient’ places?

The course starts with explaining what Byzantine archaeology is and with a general layout of the module.
The successive meetings include introductory lectures on the themes and case studies of the week. This is followed by student presentations on weekly topics accompanied by group discussions to get feedback from fellow students and explore the research problems.
One meeting consists of a hands-on material practical during which you will get acquainted with medieval ceramics from the Mediterranean and the Near East.

Course objectives

After this course, students

  • Have obtained primary knowledge about the cultural, social, economic changes that took place in the early medieval Mediterranean and Near East;

  • Can reflect upon the key archaeological evidence on which this knowledge is based;

  • Have the ability to critically reflect on both data and their interpretation in discussions and writing.


Course schedule details can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar with lectures, a material practical, student presentations and group discussions;

  • Reading list.

Course load

  • 7 x ca. 3 hours of lectures, student presentations and a practical (1.5 ec);

  • Ca. 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Final essay and weekly summaries (1.5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Presentation and weekly assignments (short abstracts of 200-400 words) (40%);

  • Active participation in the class discussions (10%);

  • Final essay of 2,000 words and an abstract of 500 words (50%).

All essays must be submitted through Turnitin/Brightspace, and only on-time Turnitin/Brightspace submissions count.

A retake is only possible for the final essay, and only if all other requirements have been met and a seriously attempted and complete first final essay has been submitted.

Assessment deadlines

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button. To view the assessment deadline(s), make sure to select the course with a code ending in T and/or R.

Deadlines for assignments are included in the course syllabus. Weekly summaries need to be handed in at the end of every lecture week via Turnitin/Brightspace.
The deadline for the final essay will be within 3 weeks after the last lecture.

Reading list

The reading list will be published on Brightspace.


Registration in uSis is mandatory. You can register for this course until 5 days before the first class.

Registration in uSis automatically leads to enrollment in the corresponding Brightspace module. Therefore you do not need to enroll in Brightspace, but make sure to register for this course in uSis.

You are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time. The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, you are not required to do this in uSis.

Start registration for the BA2 seminars:

  • Series 1: 27 September 2021, 07:00 hrs

  • Series 2: 17 January 2022, 07:00 hrs

  • Series 3: 28 February 2022, 07:00 hrs


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. J.A.C. (Joanita) Vroom.


Attendance is not compulsory but strongly recommended. Attendance and active participation influence grading.