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Complex Societies


Admission requirements

World Archaeology 1, World Archaeology 2 and World Archaeology 3 obtained.


This course focuses on the archaeology of complex urban societies across the globe. After a general introduction on the archaeology of complex societies and urbanisation, lecturers will present a series of regional case studies on

  • the Near East (Politopoulos)

  • the Mediterranean (de Haas)

  • the Americas (Geurds).

We will tackle a number of themes in these sessions, including the emergence of social inequality, class society, and cities, the development of complex economies and long distance trade, and the transformation of cult and religion.

In this course we will discuss conceptual frameworks and theories, and present a number of important datasets through a series of case studies from the Near East, the Mediterranean, and the Americas.

Course set-up

The topics and their regional case studies are introduced in 2-hour lectures. Subsequently students study reading materials. Mini multiple choice wrap-ups will be provided on Brightspace after every class.

Course objectives

  • Gain insight into models and theories applied by archaeologists when investigating complex societies and processes of urbanisation;

  • Gain insight into the emergence of social complexity;

  • Gain insight into the development of economic complexity;

  • Gain insight into the ritual practices and religion in complex societies;

  • Ability to critically evaluate theories on complex societies against archaeological datasets on a general level.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA2 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Autonomous study;

  • Short assignments.

Due to COVID-19 measures in place, and depending on developments in the situation, the mode of instruction may change before or during the course.

Course load

  • 24 hours of seminar;

  • 500 pages of literature;

  • Short assignments.

Assessment method

  • Assignments (combined 50% of the grade);

  • Final written exam (50% of the grade).

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA2 examination schedule.
Deadlines for assignments are included in the course syllabus.

Due to COVID-19 measures in place, and depending on developments in the situation, the assessment method may change before or during the course.

Reading list

Per meeting there will be 1 or 2 papers to read. The reading list will be distributed at the start of the class.


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 A. (Aris) Politopoulos.