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Themes in European Prehistory


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA degree (or equivalent) in archaeology or a relevant discipline.
SAP and exchange students: admission after approval by the Graduate School of Archaeology.


This is a course in which key developments in prehistoric Europe will be discussed, taking place between the 7th and the end of the 1st millennium BC.
The focus is on agrarian communities. Themes that will be addressed include Neolithisation, the rise and history of ritual landscapes, prehistoric religion and cosmology, Bronze Age and Iron Age “world systems”, ethnogenesis (Celts, Germans, Scythians) and the legacy of prehistory in modern Europe.
Central to the course will be how to deal with and encapsulate such broad issues in regional, practical research. The lectures will be closely linked to current research of our section members.

This is an interactive course, which means that part of each lecture session is dedicated to discussion on the basis of literature and an assignment, and part to formal lecturing in which a broader background is presented on the issues under discussion.
This way students will build their knowledge of and insight into the most fundamental interpretative themes of European prehistory. Students will be introduced to the themes at stake, and be trained to formulate their own views on them.
Each week students will write a discussion paper, or assess those papers according to a protocol. At the end, each student is to write an essay on a theme of her/his own choice, reflecting on a particular research question.

Due to its broad perspective, the course is not only of interested for students who plan a future career in the archaeology of prehistoric Europe (both in terms of fieldwork/material culture and heritage), but also to students who are interested in later periods of European history, or in the links between the Mediterranean and Near East on the one hand, and “Barbaric” Europe on the other.

The course is open to RMA-students. Although participating in the same sessions, their assignments will be different. Each RMA-student will be asked to organise, lead and review 1 session discussion. In addition to this, they will write a different type of essay, in which 1 theme is studied in more depth, reviewed and new directions for research are being formulated.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • Knowledge of and insight in key developments in European prehistory from the Neolithic to the Iron Age;

  • Critical assessment of current research on European prehistory with respect to practical applicability and theoretical background;

  • Ability to voice one’s properly argumented opinion on these topics;

  • Ability to link broad research themes to regional and local fieldwork/material culture studies or heritage issues related to prehistory;

  • Insight in the applicability of theoretical models on data;

  • Ability to formulate well-structured arguments orally, and in writing;

  • Ability to formulate discussion points;

  • Ability to review papers according to protocol.

For RMA-students:

  • Acquiring knowledge of and insight in key developments in European prehistory from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and being able to situate these in broader, more global developments, or contextualize these in social-historical discussions;

  • Ability to review the significance of such regional/local research in terms of such broader issues;

  • Ability to quickly combine and assess the opinions of others on prehistoric key themes;

  • Ability to report such reviews orally and in writing;

  • Ability to assess and evaluate different theories and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

For MA-students:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 5 small assignments (1 ects);

  • Literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay: thematic (1 ects).

For RMA-students:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • Organisation and review of theme discussions (1 ects);

  • Literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay: new directions of research (1 ects).


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

Mode of instruction

Formal lectures and discussion on the basis of written assignments, plus a final 2,000-word essay.

Assessment method

For MA-students:

  • Assignments (40%);

  • Participation in discussion (10%);

  • Final essay (50 %).

For RMA-students:

  • Organisation, leading of and review of theme discussions (50%);

  • Final essay “New directions of research” (50 %).

Assessment deadline

The assignments have strict weekly deadlines.

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

Reading list

The reading list be published on Blackboard.


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 dr. D.R. Fontijn.