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Archaeology of Arabia


Admission requirements


The course will provide an overview of the archaeology of Arabia with a focus on the Eastern and Northern parts of the peninsula.
It will provide an overview of the cultural history from the Neolithic up to the Islamic period. Key issues that will be discussed:

  • the history of research, the geography and climate of Arabia, and how this changed over time;

  • the nature of societies in this region during the Neolithic period and how we should define the Neolithic in Arabia;

  • the remarkable transformation in the 3rd millennium, in which we see the emergence of monumental ‘towers’ and collective burial monuments, long distance trade and metallurgy, and oasis agriculture;

  • the nature of Arabian society in the Wadi Suq period and the rise of Dilmun as a trading statelet;

  • the development of agriculture and society in the Iron Age and the domestication of the dromedary;

  • how we should understand Safatic societies in northern Arabia in the Late Antique period;

  • the transformation of Islam in Arabia and the remarkable success of Islamic agriculture and trade systems.

Course objectives

  • To gain an overview of the culture-historical development of Arabia;

  • To gain insight into research traditions in Arabian archaeology and what the current academic controversies are within the discipline;

  • Ability to critically assess key issues in Arabian archaeology in oral and written formats.


Course schedule details can be found in the bachelor 3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Seminar presented by various members of the Near Eastern section.

The course has a dual character. In the first half of each session the lecturer of the session will present a critical introduction into the archaeology of the specific topic being addressed.
After the break there will be a series of brief (10 minutes) presentations on key issues and / or controversies, which will subsequently be discussed.
Students will read chapters or articles prior to each session and will prepare 3 questions for the class which they will submit at the start.
About 2 weeks after the end of the course students will submit an essay on one of the topics addressed in the course.

Course load

The course load will be distrubuted as follows:

  • 14 hours of seminar (1 ects);

  • 300 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay of 3,000-4,000 words plus a short presentation (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Short presentations during the course (20%);

  • Final essay of 3,000-4,000 words, dealing with one of the case studies discussed in the class (80%).

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

Reading list

  • P. Magee, The Archaeology of Prehistoric Arabia. Adaptation and Social Formation from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2014). (Please note: available online for free via the library!);

  • M.C.A. Macdonald, “ Nomads and the Hawran in the late Hellenistic and Roman Periods : A Reassessment of the Epigraphic
    Evidence” (1993) in: Syria 70: 303-403.


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 his course, please contact dr. B.S. Düring.


  • The maximum amount of participants for this class is 20. If the number of interested students exceeds 20, those who have to take this course as part of their programme requirements will be prioritised.

  • Compulsory attendance. If attendance and participation in group discussions is too limited no credits can be earned.