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Disruptive innovations in Prehistory


Admission requirements

BA degree (or equivalent) in Prehistoric archaeology or a relevant discipline.

As this course builds on the knowledge of Key developments in European Prehistory it is advisable to take that course in block 1.


During this course you will deepen your knowledge on some of the key developments in Prehistoric Europe, focusing on the fundamental innovations that took place. We focus in depth on the processes behind innovation and adaptation, and explore how a new material, technology, or ideology (re)shaped societies, the landscape, and ultimately Europe.

Over the course of 7 lectures we discuss various theoretical frameworks, several case studies, and the relevance of the knowledge gained. Possible case studies concern domestication, metallurgy, the wheel, boats and seafaring, mound building, and cremation.

You will learn to critically read and analyse articles. While writing short papers on the case studies, you are trained in formulating your thoughts. Each week a group of students presents on a chosen case study, detailing the material, objects, and/or technology in terms of its innovative effects on Prehistoric society. Thus you learn to build and present an argument that you discuss with your peers. Taking feedback from this session, the course's final exam consists of an essay that summarises your findings.

RMA-students who follow this class are expected to supervise the presentation groups and provide feedback to the drafts of the essays, to start and stimulate discussion in class, and to write a final essay in which they elaborate on the case studies and the theoretical background to the articles we have read.

Course objectives

  • In-depth knowledge of a few fundamental innovations in Prehistoric Eurasia from the Neolithic to the Iron Age;

  • Knowledge of and insight in interpretative approaches to innovation and adoption of new materials, ideas, and technologies;

  • Insight into the applicability of theoretical models on data;

  • Ability to voice one’s properly argumented opinion on the discussed topics;

  • Ability to formulate well-structured arguments orally and in writing;

  • Ability to present your results in class.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Presentations;

  • Discussion.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Literature and 5 small assignments (500-750 words) (3 ec);

  • Final essay of ca. 1,800 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Written assignments (40%);

  • Presentation in class (20%);

  • Final essay (40%);

  • Feedback to peers and participation in discussion (used to round off the grade: -0.5 / 0 / +0.5).

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

The assignments have strict weekly deadlines.

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

Reading list

To be published on BlackBoard.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

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 dr. M.H.G. Kuijpers.


Compulsory attendance.