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Environmental history of the Near East


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree obtained.


This course provides an introduction to the way humans in the past exploited their environment. This includes both the factors that are determined by the environment and factors that are associated with economy and health in particular. Basic concepts that are discussed include: origin and development of agriculture, domestication, climate and soil (related to irrigation and fertilisation), food and fuel, yield, storage and transport, and labour in relation to agricultural practices and food preparation.

The course also deals with the way archaeo-botanical research can contribute to the reconstruction of the former landscape and how humans changed the landscape.

The aspects mentioned above will be studied within the context of environments and developments in the Near East.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the central concepts and ability to explain causal relationships between these concepts in relation to the exploitation of the landscape;

  • Knowledge of models that provide insight in the origins of agriculture, the selection of crops, and sampling strategy in relation to the reconstruction of agricultural practices;

  • Ability to evaluate theories related to agriculture and food economy based on archaeo-botanical evidence.


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

Mode of instruction

Lectures, with student participation.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 420 pages of literature (3 ec);

  • Essay (1,500-1,800 words) (1 ec).

Assessment method

Essay (1,500-1,800 words).

The essay needs to be handed in within 1 month after the end of the lecture series.

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

Reading list

R.T.J. Cappers & R. Neef, Handbook of Plant Palaeoecology. Groningen: Barkhuis (2012).


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. R.T.J. Cappers.


Compulsory attendance.