nl en

Material Culture for Ancient Historians


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


Ancient historians increasingly make use of archaeological sources in key historical debates, and this is rapidly changing the field. At the same time, the digital revolution has made archaeological remains increasingly easily accessible for researchers and students alike. Increasingly, basic archaeological literacy becomes indispensable for ancient historians.

This course offers will investigate the impact of archaeological remains on ancient history, and discuss how archaeological evidence can be effectively used in ancient history. It will introduce the main categories of evidence – architecture, artefacts, art and explore their uses in debates about the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Greek and Roman world.

The course will train students to effectively use of the freely available digital resources, including online museum catalogs, photo archives, and applications like Google Earth for ancient historical purposes, and to find the background information about artefacts, structures and sites needed to use them in a historical narrative.

There will be no entry test for this course, but the students are required to submit a compulsory assignment two days before the first class, following the instructions on Blackboard.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3) The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following; in the specialisation Ancient History: unification processes in the Graeco-Roman World, 400 BC – 400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to both the history of mentality and socio-economic history.

  • 12) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following: in the specialisation Ancient History: the comparative method; application of socio-scientific methods; specialized source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  • 13) Can assess the role of key types of archaeological evidence from the Greco-Roman mediterranean in current debates in ancient history, including architectural remains, artefacts, art, and archeobiological evidence.

  • 14) Is able to search and find archaeological evidence in key online databases

  • 15) Can combine textual and archaeological evidence in one coherent historical narrative

  • 16) (ResMA only – Has the ability to assess the preservation and excavation history of archaeological evidence, and link these to eventual historical biases)


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Classes 12 x 2 = 24 hours

  • Obligatory Reading = 60 hours

  • Assignment(s): 6 x 4 = 24 hours

  • Paper: 172 hours.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6,500-7,500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15 (ResMA also 16)

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 11-15 (ResMA also 16)

  • Assignments
    measured learning objectives: 1-15 (ResMA also 16)


  • Written paper: 60 %

  • Oral presentation: 10%

  • Assignments: 30%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Blackboard.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor, and/or extra assignments should be fulfilled

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • publication course outline

  • communication of deadlines

  • assignments

Reading list

S. Alcock and R. Osborne (eds.) Classical Archaeology. Second Edition (Chichester 2012).

Note that this course will use the second, revised edition (2012), not the first edition (2007).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M. Flohr