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Current Issues & Archaeology: Global Networks of the Silk Roads


Admission requirements

This course is only available to Honours students

Maximum number of students: 30

Course description

The course approaches some of the most pressing current world issues through the lens of the latest archaeological research and historical facts. In this way, the course deals with questions of globalization, China’s new economic Silk Road initiative, biodiversity, water management, and the impacts of political conflict. The course will discuss the most up-to-date archaeological studies of the early Silk Roads networks across the Eurasian continent (200 BCE-600 CE) in order to rethink and discuss the connectedness of our present globalising world.

In every lecture an equal amount of time will be dedicated to the archaeological material and to current issues of global networks and governance, with ample time reserved for on-topic discussions in class.The lectures offer an overview of the most important historical and archaeological contexts of the Silk Roads, ranging from ancient Egypt to Han Dynasty China. In-depth case study are discussed of specific sites, including Petra (Jordan), Gandhara (India), the Karakorum mountains (Pakistan), and the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang, China).

Subsequently, based on these case studies, the class discussions will tie in to the archaeological facts to incite debate about present global connections. Herein, three main focus points are central:

  • The issue of traditional centre-periphery/West-East dichotomies

  • Globalization & network theory approaches to complex human systems

  • Cultural heritage challenges for both archaeology and politics

By means of 3 written assignments, students will learn basic archaeological analytical skills for individual objects, and are mainly encouraged to interpret historical facts in a much wider socio-political context.

Throughout the course, students are challenged to think outside the box and consider the lasting connections between past and present. Moreover, they are encouraged to develop their academic skills through class debate, empirical analysis, and essay writing.

Course objectives

  • To gain knowledge about archaeological data from the earliest trade networks of the Silk Roads;

  • To connect past and present by using informed historical knowledge to interpret and better understand current world connections;

  • To enhance student’s skills in academic discussion and essay writing;

  • To practise the critical analysis of individual case studies of sites and objects.

Programme and timetable

2019-2020 Semester 2

Monday, Feb 24 19.15-21.00
Monday, Mar 2 19.15-21.00
Monday, Mar 9 19.15-21.00
Monday, Apr 6 19.15-21.00
Monday, Apr 20 19.15-21.00
Monday, May 11 19.15-21.00
Monday, May 18 19.15-21.00



Reading list

Other possible literature will be announced in class or via Blackboard.

Course load and teaching method

This course is worth 5 ECTS, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures with active participation and discussion;

  • Feedback on each assignment (in Turnitin).

Assessment methods

  • Average grade of 3 assignments (50%);

  • Final essay of 2000 words (50%).

Both the average grade of 3 assignments and the final essay should have a sufficient grade in order to pass.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Registration will be done centrally.
Registration through uSis will be done centrally.

Registration process

TGC coordinator/administration will take care of enrollment.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for this class. Your registration will be done centrally after successful completion of the Class.


Teacher: Dr. M.E.J.J. van Aerde

Coordinator: Drs. A.J.E. Righolt