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Advanced Archaeology of Palaeolithic Europe


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMA or RMSc Archaeology programme, or the conditional RMA track with a demonstrable focus on and basic knowledge (BA3 level) of early Prehistory.


This course gives an introduction to the European Palaeolithic record and its wider setting, from the first colonisation of Eurasia by early hominins and ending with the archaeology of Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers.
The course integrates advances recently made in a range of studies of the biology of extinct hominins, and addresses the challenges Palaeolithic archaeologists face trying to make sense of a fragmented archaeological and fossil record, taking into consideration the large-scale taphonomic processes which create archaeological patterns.

The emphasis of the course is on the record of the Neanderthals. A writing assignment will help you to focus on one specific topic within the lecture series and to integrate that with the other issues discussed during the course.

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

  • Knowledge of the European Palaeolithic archaeological record, in the wider setting of Pleistocene climate change and the colonisation of the Old World;

  • Insight in the relationship between large-scale physical geographical processes and the formation of the archaeological record;

  • Ability to assess the nature and quality of the archaeological evidence for the European Palaeolithic, and demonstrate the potential and limitations of the data with regard to the key current research questions;

  • Ability to assess and evaluate conflicting theories;

  • Ability to report such reviews orally and in writing;

  • Ability to integrate data from different fields, to evaluate different theories, and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research;

  • Initiate and guide discussions in class.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Literature study (required reading before each lecture).

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Assignments (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Short (weekly) written assignments (40%);

  • Final essay (60%).

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 written assignments have weekly deadlines.
The deadline for the final essay can be found in the RMA and RMSc examination schedule.

Reading list

The reading list will be published on Blackboard.

In preparation for this course, you are advised to study R. Klein’s The Human Career (3rd edition).


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 prof. dr. J.W.M. (Wil) Roebroeks.


Compulsory attendance.