nl en

Theory and history of archaeology



This course covers both the history of archaeology as a discipline and the theoretical trends in this field of study. These two issues are closely linked and will be treated in relation to broader academic and social developments.

An understanding of the history of the discipline and the theory in archaeology is essential for the study. Armed with this fundamental knowledge you will be able to understand the changing views and arguments in different archaeological studies. You will learn to order archaeological theories in a specific academic or social context.

These aspects will be discussed thematically and illustrated by means of practical archaeological examples.

Course objectives

The ability to

  • Discuss the history and development of archaeological practice;

  • Place specific archaeological studies in the history of the field of study;

  • Place different stages in the history of archaeological practice in the context of broader academic and social developments;

  • Define the most important schools of archaeological theory;

  • Characterise these theoretical debates;

  • Discuss a number of key themes in these theoretical debates;

  • Name the main criticisms of different archaeological paradigms.


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

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14×2 hours of lectures (1,5 ects);

  • 300 pages of literature (2,5 ects);

  • Essay of 1,800 words (1 ects).

Assessment method

Take-home exam.

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

Reading list

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

  • 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 prof. dr. J.C.A. Kolen.


  • Compulsory attendance.

  • This course has two versions: one taught in Dutch, the other taught in English.