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Complex Societies



Bachelor year 2.

Admission requirements

All BA1 World Archaeology courses obtained.


This course focuses on the archaeology of complex urban societies across the globe. After a general introduction on the archaeology of complex societies, lecturers will present a series of regional case studies on

  • the Near East (Düring);

  • the Mediterranean (Termeer);

  • Medieval Europe (van Oosten);

  • the America’s (Borck).

We will tackle a number of themes in these sessions, including the emergence of social inequality and class society, the development of complex economies and long distance trade, and the transformation of cult and religion.

In this course we will discuss conceptual frameworks and theories, and present a number of important datasets through a series of case studies. The time frame of the course extends from the 4th millennium BC to the early Modern Period.

Set-up of the course:
In the morning the topic is introduced by the lecturer of the day. Subsequently students study course materials/handbooks.
In the afternoons discussion sessions are planned.

Course objectives

  • Gain insight into models and theories applied by archaeologists when investigating complex societies;

  • Gain insight into the emergence of social complexity;

  • Gain insight into the development of economic complexity;

  • Gain insight into the transformation in ritual practices in complex societies;

  • Ability to critically evaluate theories on complex societies against archaeological datasets on a general level.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA2 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Autonomous study;

  • Short assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 24 hours of seminar;

  • 500 pages of literature;

  • Short assignments.

Assessment method

  • 3 assignments (20% of the grade each);

  • Final written exam (40%).

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA2 examination schedule.

Reading list

Per meeting there will be 1 or 2 papers to read. The reading list will be distributed 2 weeks prior to the start of the class. Make sure you are registered for this BlackBoard module in time.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact A. (Aris) Politopoulos.


Compulsory attendance.