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Seminar Material Culture Studies


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the MSc or MA programmes of the Faculty of Archaeology (this course is open to all MA and MSc students).


Objects are intimately connected with the social and ideational aspects of society. The course will start with some introductory lectures on central concepts in material culture theory. For each stage in the artefact’s trajectory, current theoretical concepts and analytical approaches will be discussed.
The second half of the course deals with a current theme in material culture studies on which the literature, presentations and discussion will be focused. In 2016-2017 this theme will be ‘craft and identity.’

Course objectives

  • Insight into the various research questions that can be asked regarding the meaning of material culture for past societies;

  • Knowledge of the various theoretical concepts that are important in material culture studies and ability to discuss them in a critical manner;

  • Ability to apply the concepts to a case study related to the central theme of the course, “craft and identity”, and present this in class.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Practicals;

  • Films.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 28 hours of lectures, including presentations (2 ects);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ects;

  • Essay of about 3,000 words (2 ects)

Another option would be to keep the 280 pages of literature (2 ects) and reduce the essay to 1,500-1,800 words (1 ects).

Assessment method

  • Paper (70%);

  • Presentation (30%).
    There will be one final result and the average of the parts will be taken as a pass. There will be a resit for the paper. If the oral presentation is a fail, this needs to be compensated by the paper.

Students are also expected to submit on BlackBoard a discussion point on the article they have to read for the lecture. They have to hand in 6 out of 7 times in order to get their ects. These submissions will not be graded but are compulsory.

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

Reading list

  • A. Jones, “Archaeometry and Materiality. Materials-based Analysis in Theory and Practice” (2004), in: Archaeometry 46(3), 327-338;

  • D. Stout, “Skill and Cognition in Stone Tool Production; An Ethnographic Case Study from Irian Jaja” (2002), in: Current Anthropology, 43, 693-722;

  • Additional literature (to be announced).


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

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

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 prof. dr. A.L. van Gijn or mw. dr. C. Tsoraki.


Compulsory attendance.