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A world of pottery: Understanding Prehistoric ceramics in the ancient Near East


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

  • BA-degree in Archaeology (or a relevant discipline) obtained;

  • MA specialisation Archaeology of the Mediterranean and the Near East, with Near East as the first focus.


Over the past 2 decades scholars working in the Middle East have made significant advances in understanding when, where, and why pottery was first adopted, and how the production and consumption of pottery containers developed subsequently.
We have begun to understand how pottery slowly but irreversibly became an indispensible part of social, economic and ritual practices during the Late Neolithic. This has brought about major shifts in how we conceptualise prehistoric ceramics.

In this course you will become familiar with 2,000 years of Late Neolithic ceramic industries in Upper Mesopotamia (ca. 7,000 – 5,000 BC). We will discuss major interpretations and concepts, the history of thought, and recent paradigm shifts.
Moving beyond theory and text books, a key part of the course comprises hands-on study of prehistoric ceramics from various Near Eastern sites. Participants learn to identify specific wares and periods, and gain practice with analysing Late Neolithic ceramics in the field.

Course objectives

  • Detailed knowledge of the current literature, current debates and the archaeological approaches regarding prehistoric ceramics;

  • Detailed knowledge of Late Neolithic pottery traditions in the ancient Near East (7,000 – 5,000 BC);

  • Ability to independently describe prehistoric ceramics in the field, involving description and drawing.

Ects distribution

  • 7 × 2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Practical work (1 ects);

  • Final essay (2,000 words) (1 ects).


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures, with weekly synthesis of literature;

  • Practical work with supervision.

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (20%);

  • Practical work (40%);

  • Final essay (40%).

Assessment deadline

Students submit a synthesis of the literature each week one day before class. The final essay is due 2 weeks after the last meeting. All essays including the final essay must be submitted through SafeAssign and as PDF. The final essay should also be submitted as a hard copy.

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

Reading list

The reading list will be given to participating students prior to the beginning of the course.


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

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact dr. O.P. Nieuwenhuijse.