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Theory and history of archaeology


Admission requirements



This lecture series studies both the history of archaeology as a discipline and the schools of thought in archaeology. These two areas are closely linked and will be related to broader academic and social developments.

An understanding of the history of the subject and theory formation within archaeology is essential in the study. This knowledge is important to help you understand the changing insights and argumentations in archaeological studies. It also enables you to place archaeological studies in a specific academic or social context.
During the course, these aspects will be discussed as a theme and illustrated with concrete archaeological examples, where possible with current archaeological research from Leiden.

Course objectives

The ability to

  • discuss the history of archaeology and the various stages;

  • place archaeological studies in the history of the subject;

  • place the stages in the history of archaeology in the framework of broader scientific and social development;

  • define the main archaeological theories;

  • summarise these archaeological theories;

  • discuss a number of key themes of these theories;

  • identify the main criticisms of archaeological theories.


Course schedule details can be found in the propedeuse/first year time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Museum visit.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 10×2 hours of lectures (2 ects);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ects);

  • Essay of 2,000 words (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Written exam (60% of the final grade);

  • Essay of 2,000 words, +/- 10% (40% of the final grade). The subject options for these essays are given during the lectures.
    Both the exam grade and the essay mark must be a pass.

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

Reading list

  • K. Greene & T. Moore, “Archaeology: An Introduction” (5th edition, 2010). London/New York: Routledge;

  • C. Renfrew & P. Bahn, Archaeology, Theories, Methods and Practices, London: Thames & Hudson (2012) (6th edition or 2008 5th edition);

  • C. Scarre, The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson (2013) (3rd edition), chapter 1;

  • Additional literature will be distributed during lectures.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).




For more information about this course, please contact dr. ir. M.J. Driessen.


Compulsory attendance.