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Archaeological theory (BA3)



In this challenging course we discuss the development and use of archaeological theory. Rather than presenting the development of archaeological thought as linear (and implicitly progressive), we will delve into the pros and cons of different ways of approaching archaeological evidence by reading first-hand literature and practice in different case studies.

Critical reflections are practiced in weekly writing assignments and group discussions, which culminate in a final essay.

Course objectives

Ability to:

  • identify and explain the main developments and trends in archaeological theory, as discussed in this class;

  • illustrate the historical context in which these theoretical trends developed;

  • understand and summarise texts written by influential archaeological thinkers;

  • appreciate and criticise the current relevance of these texts and the theoretical trends they belong to, both in spoken word (debate) and written word (essays);

  • apply relevant theoretical perspectives to one's own research and write a scholarly essay on this topic.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7 classes (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Weekly discussion in 6 short essays of 350 words and 1 final essay of 1,200 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • 6 short essays (maximum 350 words) during the course (50%);

  • Final essay of 1,200 words (50%).

Weekly submission of short essays (with the exception of week 1). The deadline for the final essay of 1,200 words is scheduled on the website, and will be accepted only after submission of all 6 short essays. All essays must be submitted through Turnitin.

If you fail the exam, there is an opportunity for a retake of the final essay only. This is only allowed when all essays during the course have been submitted and the attendance requirements have been met. The retake has the same form (essay of 1,200 words) and the topic is chosen by the course coordinator.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA3 examination schedule.

Reading list

  • B.G. Trigger, A History of Archaeological Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2006) [2nd ed.];

  • Selection of essays and chapters by various influential archaeologists.

The full reading list will be made available prior to the first meeting on BlackBoard.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

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 his course, please contact M.K. Termeer PhD.


Compulsory attendance.