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Key developments in European Prehistory


Admission requirements

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

  • SAP and exchange students: admission after approval by the Graduate School of Archaeology.


This is a course in which key developments in Prehistoric Europe will be discussed, taking place between the 7th and the end of the 1st millennium BC. The emphasis is on how Prehistory shaped the modern world, and much attention is given to the societal and political relevance of the research of Prehistory in our own society.

The focus is on agrarian communities. Themes that may be addressed include Neolithisation, the rise and history of ritual landscapes, the deep history of migration, Prehistoric religion and cosmology, invention and adaptation of metallurgy, Bronze Age and Iron Age “world systems”, ethnogenesis (Celts, Germans, Scythians), and the legacy of Prehistory in modern Europe.
Central to the course will be how to deal with and encapsulate such broad issues in regional, practical research, and if/how it plays a role in debates on contemporary society. The lectures will be closely linked to current research of our section members.

This is an interactive course, which means that part of each lecture session is dedicated to a discussion on the basis of literature and an assignment, and part to formal lecturing in which a broader background is presented on the issues being debated.
This way you will build your knowledge of and insight into the most fundamental interpretative themes of European Prehistory. You will be introduced to the themes at stake, and trained to formulate your own views on them. Creative thinkers are very much welcomed.

Each week you will write a paper in which you try to answer/explore the question that has been posed about the literature. At the end, you write an essay on a theme of your own choice, reflecting on a particular research question.
Due to its broad perspective, the course is not only of interest to students who plan a future career in the archaeology of early Europe (both in terms of fieldwork/material culture, museums and heritage), but also to students who are interested in links between the Mediterranean and Near East on the one hand, and “Barbaric” Europe on the other.

The course is open to RMA-students. Although participating in the same sessions, their assignments will be different and more demanding. We also expect the RMA-students to start and stimulate discussion. In addition, they will write a different type of essay in which a theme is explored in more depth and new directions for research are being formulated.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of and insight in key developments in European Prehistory from the Neolithic to the Iron Age;

  • Critical assessment of current research on European Prehistory with respect to practical applicability and theoretical background;

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

  • Ability to link broad research themes to regional and local fieldwork/material culture studies or heritage issues related to Prehistory;

  • Insight in the applicability of theoretical models on data;

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

  • Ability to formulate discussion points.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Formal lectures;

  • Discussion on the basis of written assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 6×2 hours of lectures + one 2-hour tutorial with a smaller group (1 ects);

  • 4 small assignments based on a predefined question about the literature (c. 300 words each) (1 ects);

  • 250 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay of ca. 1,500 words: thematic; elaborating on a single theme and question (1 ects).

Assessment method

  • 4 small assignments (300 words each) (50%);

  • Final essay (1,500 words) (50%);

  • Participation in discussion (bonus of max. 0.5, used to round up grade).

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

The reading list will be published 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.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. D.R. Fontijn.


Compulsory attendance.