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Byzantine Archaeology


Admission requirements

  • This is a seminar with a limited number of participants (20 students), for Archaeology students exclusively;

  • BA3 students who want to take this course: please contact the Administration Office. You can only be admitted if there are spots left, BA2 students will have priority.


This course explores various aspects of the dynamic and transformative period between Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean and the Near East from an archaeological perspective. The main focus is on the Early Byzantine period (300-1,000 CE).

The Aegean heartland and its strategically located capital Constantinople (combined with Roman imperial heritage) gave Byzantium a unique and dominant position. The Byzantine Empire proved resilient during various devastating centuries and formed a focal point of long-distance contact and exchange. Throughout its long existence, Byzantium did influence and was influenced by neighbouring civilisations.

Transformation and continuation, conquest and disintegration, growth and contraction were the historical ebbs and flows of the Early Byzantine world. Questions raised can be: how much of the Late Roman past continued and what did change? What do we mean by ‘Byzantium’? How (dis)similar was it from the Roman Empire and other Post-Roman states? Can we distinguish 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. Topics for discussion can range from the Arabic expansion and the 7th-century crisis to the Silk Roads.

These themes and questions will be explored with an archaeological focus. Developments in both towns and the countryside, from large urban centres to rural settlements, will be discussed. Furthermore, the sea is essential. Differences between well-connected coastal zones and remote inland areas will be discussed. How did people, objects, and ideas move? What was the impact of maritime travel and exchange?

Course set-up

The course starts 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. One class consists of a hands-on material practical during which the students 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, and 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;

  • Material practical;

  • Student presentations;

  • Group discussions.

Assessment method

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

  • Active participation in 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 genuine 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 in three weeks after the last lecture week.

Reading list

The reading list will be published on Brightspace.


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

Registration will take place with the use of forms. These will be e-mailed by the study advisers to all BA2 students and pre-master students at the beginning of October 2023.

The Administration Office will register all Archaeology BA2 students in uSis for their seminar exams. However, confirmation of these exams in MyStudymap is mandatory. No confirmation = no participation!


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.