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Urban societies of the ancient Near East



This course will focus on the phenomenon of the city in the Bronze Age and Iron Age Near East and how to best understand urban societies in this region between about 3,000 BC and 300 BC.

The concept of the ‘urban revolution’ that is still very influential has supported the false notions that: first, urbanisation was a one-off event; and, second, the ‘urban’ is a coherent category.

In this course we will focus on various episodes of urbanisation and investigate the nature of very diverse urban communities in the Bronze Age and Iron Age Near East.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the main theories on urbanisation in the Bronze Age and Iron Age Near East;

  • Ability to critically compare weaknesses and strengths of such theories;

  • Ability to critically apply urbanisation theories to a particular case study.


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

Mode of instruction

The course has a dual character. You will be asked to read a relevant article prior to each meeting. In the first half of the meeting the lecturer will present further background to the theme of the meeting. Subsequently one (or two) student(s) will present a short discussion of the article they read for the meeting and they will embed this in the broader frame sketched by the lecturer. This is then followed by a group discussion. Finally, you will submit an essay of 3,000 words on one of the themes addressed in the course.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7x2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Essay of 3,000 words (2 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (to prepare discussion) (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Active participation in the course and discussions (10%);

  • Quality of the discussion presented (20 %);

  • Essay (70 %).

A retake is only possible for the essay, and only if all other requirements, including attendance, have been met.

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

Reading list

The reading list will be given to the participating students two weeks prior to the beginning of the course.


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.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. B.S. Düring.


Compulsory attendance.