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Research seminar: Palaeolithic technology


Admission requirements

BA or BSc degree obtained, admission to the RMA-programme.


This research seminar addresses aspects of cultural adaptations of Palaeolithic hominins, using various case studies from ongoing multidisciplinary research of staff members (Soressi, Roebroeks, MacDonald and Verpoorte).
The seminar has a strong focus on the Neanderthal record, and includes discussions of lithic studies and the role of fire in the development of the hominin niche.

Course objectives

  • Working knowledge of a wide range of approaches for studying the technology of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, including stone tools and fire;

  • Learning to deal with conflicting data and interpretations in the context of scientific debates;

  • Background knowledge necessary to understand relevant research in other disciplines, including genetics/biology, understanding of the significance of these disciplines in human origins research, and developing ideas about ways this can be applied to questions about human origins;

  • Insight into planning a research project, writing a proposal, and developing ideas for future research.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Practical exercises and assignments;

  • Discussion meetings.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14×2 hours of lectures, discussion meetings and practical exercises;

  • 560 pages of literature;

  • 2 papers presenting the results of case studies assigned to the candidate.

Assessment method

  • Presentations and discussions during the seminar from specialised reading (75%);

  • Final written paper (25%).

Assessment will focus primarily on oral presentations and discussions in class. The course starts with an introductory class and ends with an introduction to the final assignment. Participation in each class is mandatory and included in the calculation of your final grade.
After the first introductory meeting, each class will consist of presentations, discussion and debate on specific topics (see the syllabus). For each of these classes, every student has to prepare a max. 5-minute presentation (possibly with slides) on each of the mandatory papers posted on BlackBoard. She/he will also have to build up her/his own opinion on the quality of the papers and on the topic addressed.

Final paper: write a review of one of the research proposals currently being prepared by staff members. Take into account the potential of this project to contribute to debates discussed in the seminar, and the appropriateness of the choice of methods given the options available.
Take into account the criteria used by NWO reviewers to assess the academic quality of the proposal when writing the review.
Furthermore, suggest one or more specific improvements to the proposal, for example, additional multi-disciplinary methods.
This final paper will not comprise more than 4 pages (font 12, line space 1.5) excluding bibliographic references. If your paper is longer, one point will deduced for each page.

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

Reading list

The reading list will be published on BlackBoard.


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


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. J.W.M. Roebroeks.


Compulsory attendance.