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Environmental history of the Near East


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Degree students (including Dutch BA graduates): BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.
SAP and Exchange Students: BA degree. Admission only after formal application.


This course will focus on the origin and early development of agriculture in the Near East. Special emphasis will be given to:

  • The development of the climate during the Late Glacial and Holocene;

  • The contribution of the study of pollen (palynology) and plant macro remains to the reconstruction of the former landscape;

  • Modelling the origin of agriculture, including the causal relationship between key-concepts and key processes

  • Domestication, including its practical value in archaeobotanical research and the independent domestication of founder crops;

  • Reconstruction of former agricultural practices, including: manuring, irrigation, ploughing, sowing and harvesting.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the main theories and concepts on the origin and early spread of agriculture;

  • Ability to critically compare weaknesses and strengths of such theories and concepts in relation to archaeobotanical research;

  • The ability to critically apply key concepts and key processes dealing with early agriculture to a particular case study.


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

Mode of instruction

The course has a dual character. Students will be asked to read a relevant article prior to each meeting. In the first half of the meeting the lecturer will present further background to the theme of the meeting. Following that, one (or two) student(s) will present a short discussion of the article they read for the meeting and they will embed this in the broader frame sketched by the lecturer. This is then followed by a group discussion. Finally, the students will submit an essay of 3,000 words on one of the themes addressed in the course.

Assessment method

  • Active participation in the course and discussions;

  • Quality of the discussion presented;

  • Quality of the essay submitted. The essay is due 2 weeks after the last meeting.

Reading list

The reading list will be given to each student prior to the beginning of the course.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

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

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr R.T.J. Cappers.