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The Archaeology of the Ancient Silk Roads


Admission requirements

  • Basic knowledge of Mediterranean and/or Near Eastern archaeology;

  • This is a seminar with a limited amount of participants (20 students), for Archaeology students exclusively.


This course offers an overview of the most recent developments in archaeology of the earliest Silk Roads (ca. 200 BCE – 600 CE), from the ancient Mediterranean to Han China. Each lecture presents an in-depth case study of a specific site along these ancient routes, such as Berenike (Egypt), Petra (Jordan), Arikamedu (India), the Karakorum mountains (Pakistan), and the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang, China).

The aim is to integrate the most recent scientific findings with active student participation, by means of discussion in class and academic writing through assignments. Cultural heritage is also a bridging factor, making you consider new methodologies and think creatively about how to interact in the present world with the ancient material you are studying.

By means of 4 written assignments, students practice analysis of individual case studies, in terms of both material and interpretation. Feedback on all assignments will be provided during this process.

Throughout the course, you are challenged to think outside the box, and you are encouraged to develop important academic skills through debate and essay writing.

Apart from the main lectures (6 x 2 hours), there will be two discussion workgroups of 1 hour, and one pottery practical session of 2 hours.

Course objectives

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

  • To enhance skills in academic discussion and essay writing;

  • To practice the critical analysis of individual case studies of sites and objects, including pottery practical;

  • To practice discussion and academic debate in a workgroup environment.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures with active participation;

  • Feedback on each assignment (in Turnitin);

  • Workgroup discussion and practical.

Course load

  • 12 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 4 hours of workgroups + pottery practical session (1 ec);

  • 200 pages of literature, including assignments (1 ec);

  • Essay of 2,500 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Average grade of 4 assignments (50%);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (50 %).

All assignments must be uploaded on Brightspace before the following lecture (the lecture schedule will be provided on Brightspace).
A retake for the assignments is not allowed. A retake for the essay is only allowed if all other requirements have been met and all assignments have been handed in.

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.

Reading list

  • Syllabus: Xinru Liu, 2010, The Silk Road in World History, Oxford University Press;

  • Additional articles per case study for each additional lecture will be provided for each 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.

  • Start registration for the BA2 seminars:
    Series 1: 14 September 2020, 07:00 hrs
    Series 2: 11 January 2021, 07:00 hrs
    Series 3: 22 February 2021, 07:00 hrs

  • 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.E.J.J. (Marike) van Aerde.


Compulsory attendance.