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Environmental History of the Near East


Admission requirements

BA degree in Archaeology or other relevant discipline 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 manuring), food and fuel, yield, storage and transport, and labour in relation to agricultural practices and food preparation.
Special attention will be paid to crop and food processing, including food preservation and the interaction between crop selection and technology.

The course also addresses 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 (South-West Asia).

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) (100%).

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, 2012. Handbook of Plant Palaeoecology. Groningen: Bakhuis.


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. R.T.J. Cappers.