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The Archaeology of the Ancient Silk Roads


Admission requirements

  • Basic knowledge of Mediterranean and/or Near Eastern archaeology;

  • This is a seminar with a limited amount of participants (20 students), 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 offers an overview of the most recent developments in archaeology of ancient trade networks often referred to as the earliest ‘Silk Roads’ (ca. 200 BCE – 600 CE), ranging from the Mediterranean to Han China.
Each lecture presents an in-depth case study of a specific site along these ancient routes, including ancient Egypt and Aksum, Petra and Palmyra, Arikamedu and Sri Lanka, the Karakorum mountains of the Himalaya, and the Tarim Basin.

The aim is to integrate the most recent scientific findings with active student participation, by means of discussion in class and academic writing through assignments.
Cultural heritage is also a bridging factor, making you consider new methodologies and think creatively about how to interact in the present world with the ancient material you are studying.

By means of 3 written assignments, students practise analysis of individual case studies, in terms of both material and interpretation. Feedback on all assignments will be provided during this process.
Throughout the course, you are challenged to think outside the box, and you are encouraged to develop important academic skills through debate and essay writing.

Apart from the main lectures, there will be additional tutorials and a guest lecture, and a material (glass and ceramics) practical session.

Course objectives

  • To gain knowledge about archaeological sources of the earliest trade networks of Antiquity;

  • To enhance skills in academic discussion and essay writing;

  • To practice the critical analysis of individual case studies of sites and objects, including pottery practical;

  • To practice discussion and academic debate in a workgroup environment.


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

  • Lectures with active participation;

  • Feedback on each assignment (in Turnitin);

  • Workgroup discussion and practical.

Assessment method

  • Average grade of 3 assignments (30%);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (70%).

All assignments must be uploaded on Brightspace before the following lecture (the lecture schedule will be provided on Brightspace).

A retake for the assignments is not allowed. A retake for the essay is only allowed if all other requirements have been met and all assignments have been handed in.

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.

Reading list

  • Main reading: Xinru Liu, 2010, The Silk Road in Wold History. Oxford University Press;

  • Additional articles per case study for each additional lecture will be provided for each class.


Registration start dates for the BA2 seminars differ from the registration dates of the regular courses.

Registration will take place with the use of Jotforms, which will be e-mailed to all BA2 students shortly.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. M.E.J.J. (Marike) van Aerde.


Compulsory attendance.