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Seminar Material Culture Studies: Crafts and Society


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the MSc or MA programmes of the Faculty of Archaeology (this course is open to all Archaeology MA and MSc students).


Objects are intimately connected with the social and ideational aspects of society. Our material world is made by us but in turn makes us. The aim of this course is to think beyond typology and explore this close entanglement of humans and things.

The course will start with 2 introductory lectures on central concepts in material culture theory, such as materiality, chaînes opératoires, and object biographies/itineraries. How do we operationalise these concepts and tools and analytical approaches that are at our disposal?
The course will then focus on craft and craft organisation and will also involve presentations by students, museum visits and some film viewings.

Set-up of the course

  • 2 introductory lectures;

  • 5 lectures on a specific theme related to craft, followed by student presentations on the topic and discussion;

  • Museum visit leading to the paper.

Course objectives

  • To obtain insight into the various research questions that can be asked regarding the meaning of material culture for past societies;

  • Knowledge of the various theoretical concepts that are important in material culture studies, and ability to discuss them in a critical manner;

  • Basic knowledge of the analytical techniques available to operationalise these concepts, especially regarding the reconstruction of the life history of artefacts;

  • Ability to apply the concepts to a case study related to the central theme of the course and presenting this in class.

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • discuss theoretical and methodological approaches concerning craft, skills, craft organisation;

  • investigate their own case study related to the central themes of the course, by applying current methods and theoretical concepts;

  • present the results of their work in class.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Presentations;

  • Museum visits.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures and presentations (1 ec);

  • Preparation of the presentation and museum visit (1 ec);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ec);

  • Essay of ca. 3,000 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Paper (70%);

  • Presentation (30%).

Submitting a discussion point for each discussion (failure to submit at least 4 out of 5 will lead to a 0.5 subtraction per missing point from the mark of the presentation).

There will be one final result and the average of the parts will be taken as a pass. There will only be a retake for the paper. If the oral presentation is a fail, this needs to be compensated by the paper.

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

Reading list

To be announced.


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.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. A.L. (Annelou) van Gijn.


Compulsory attendance.