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Advanced Studies in Disruptive Innovations in Prehistory


Admission requirements

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

  • Admission to the RMA Archaeology programme or to the conditional RMA track;

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 will investigate 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 will discuss various theoretical frameworks, several case studies, and the relevance of the knowledge gained. Possible case studies concern domestication, metallurgy and pyro-technology, the wheel and wagons, boats and seafaring, mound building, and cremation.

You will learn to critically read and analyse articles. Writing short papers on the case studies, you are trained in formulating your thoughts and position yourself in the debates that revolve around technological innovations.
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 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 assess and evaluate different theories and how these affect archaeological reasoning;

  • Ability to report such reviews orally and in writing;

  • Ability to quickly combine and assess the opinions of others, evaluate different theories, and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research;

  • Ability to start and stimulate discussion;

  • Ability to give feedback to papers and guidance to a group;

  • Ability to link knowledge gained form archaeology to today’s social challenges.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Presentations;

  • Discussion;

  • Peer-reviewing

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Literature and 4 small assignments (750 words) (3 ec);

  • Final essay of ca. 2,000 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 RMA and RMSc examination schedule.

Reading list

To be published on BlackBoard.


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 dr. M.H.G. (Maikel) Kuijpers.


Compulsory attendance.