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Diet in the past: Food for discussion


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMA-programme Archaeology.


One of the key issues in modern archaeological research is the investigation of hominin/human’s subsistence strategies.
This thematic Research Master seminar addresses a variety of aspects presented by the invited guest speakers, for example: the use of isotope studies to reconstruct diet, the exploitation of different food resourses (plants, fish, mammals), and cultural aspects.

The case studies presented by the guest speakers will cover the prehistorical as well as historical periods but also recent anthropological data and the latest views of modern nutrition scientists about the so-called “paleodiet”, will be discussed.

The course aims to make the participants aware of:
a) the way past diet is reconstructed and
b) the way to use archaeological data to draw conclusions about for example subsistence and cultural aspects.
The course will consist of reading relevant literature, the formulation of discussion points, and lectures by guest speakers. The course will end with a two-day international (ARCHON) workshop devoted to the topic of the seminar. A final assignment will be connected to the workshop.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the recent debates concerning various aspects of the diet of past societies;

  • Ability to evaluate and discuss the different aspects;

  • To presents one’s view in writing.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Interactive lectures;

  • Workshop.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Workshop and assignments (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Discussion assignments (40%);

  • Final paper (60%).

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

Reading list

To 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. M. van Kolfschoten.


Compulsory attendance.