Universiteit Leiden

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World Archaeology (MA)

Part of
Archaeology (MA/MSc)

The study of our past can actually help us understand and resolve current societal issues. The main focus of the World Archaeology specialisation is the study of dynamics in societies: adaptation, resilience and resistance in processes of long- and short-term changes.

Excavation plays a leading role in World Archaeology

World Archaeology will admit you into a lively, multifaceted community and give you access to researchers from many different backgrounds and to international networks all over the world.
In addition to discussing data, its possible interpretations and theoretical backgrounds, you’ll be encouraged to develop an independent, but well-founded opinion on current issues.

Master of Arts or Master of Science

If you specialise in Archaeological Science you’ll receive a Master of Science degree in Archaeology. For the other specialisations (World Archaeology, Heritage and Society) you’ll receive a Master of Arts degree in Archaeology.

Modules for World Archaeology

Discover the history of the Americas

Leiden University’s interest in the indigenous cultures of the Americas goes back to geographer, linguist and historian Johannes de Laet, who worked with the West Indian Company in the 17th century. Of course, research methods have changed dramatically since then; nowadays they tend to be multidisciplinary and intercultural.

This module researches the development of indigenous societies of the Americas from various perspectives. It employs methods and techniques used in archaeology, bioarchaeology, archaeometry, history, ethnoarchaeology and cultural anthropology.

You’ll be offered a wide range of study areas and topics. These include the study of colonial encounters, settlement archaeology, human mobility and the exchange of goods and ideas in the Circum-Caribbean region and Central America, religion, identity and visual culture in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and the Andes.

Archaeological excavations, surveys and artefact analyses are taking place in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Grenada, St Vincent, the Dutch Caribbean islands, Nicaragua, the Central Andes and Venezuela and its offshore islands. If you choose to do this module you’ll be more than welcome to participate in these exciting projects.

The Middle East: the cradle of civilisation

The Middle East enjoys enormous culture-historical significance, and was the cradle of civilisation from prehistoric up to early medieval times. It was in this region that key developments, such as the origins of farming and sedentary life and the emergence of complex urbanised societies and writing, first occurred. Afterwards, they spread across the rest of the world.

In this module you will learn how to investigate these developments, using primary archaeological data. A vital part of this module is understanding how data is obtained and how to reconcile it in specific local cultural-historical contexts. The ability to translate data into observations that are relevant to the study of processes, such as neolithisation and urbanisation, is also crucial. The research is thus explicitly linked to the teaching curriculum.

Our faculty has extensive expertise on Neolithic Syria and Anatolia. And it’s thanks to this that we have accumulated insights into the reconstruction of ecological and agricultural practices. It also enables us to carry out architectural analyses and to study society and survey methodologies, as well as investigate the complex societies of the Bronze Age and Iron Age Near East and Byzantine archaeology.

Leiden University gives its students access to some of the richest archaeological resources of the ancient Near East. This includes the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO) and the National Museum of Antiquities.

Cultures and contact in the Mediterranean

The topics in this module are closely related to the faculty’s two central themes: the archaeology of towns and rural areas in the Mediterranean region, and the archaeology of cultural contact in the (wider) Mediterranean.

Both these themes deal with periods ranging from the Bronze Age up to the Middle Ages and they take an interdisciplinary approach to the study subjects. Different aspects of these themes are addressed every year, but they are always aligned to contemporary research being carried out by staff members and their research groups.
The current debates in classical and Mediterranean archaeology will expose you to the most important theories and exciting new fieldwork going in in this vibrant field. Moreover, you will also be introduced to the Dutch and international scholars that currently lead it.

The archaeology of prehistoric farming communities

This module focuses on the archaeology of prehistoric farming communities. Its focus is on the ways in which people shaped their living environment relative to other communities, their ancestors, the supernatural and, of course, the geographical landscape. The module studies archaeological data, ranging from the Neolithic Era to the Iron Age.

Using actual data, the module concentrates on several concepts and covers aspects such as ancestral landscapes, burial analysis, exchange, world systems and the biography of the landscape. The materials that are used in the module rely strongly on interaction with the students. As a student you will be challenged every step of the way to develop your own informed opinion on these topics by writing papers, participating in discussions, and conducting research.

Comprising intensive seminars, usually with guest lecturers, the module discusses data, how that data can be interpreted and the relevant theoretical backgrounds. You will be shown that the nature of this data can often be far more complex than you think, which makes it all the more fascinating.
You will be encouraged to develop an independent, but well-founded opinion on current issues. The subjects of the module always relate to on-going research and are generally organised in close cooperation with PhD students.

It was after the collapse of the Roman Empire that the foundations for modern Europe were cast

The Roman conquest of Europe brought profound changes. Unprecedented infrastructural works such as roads and harbours were created, villas were introduced in the countryside, towns sprang up and fortresses were erected along the frontiers.
However, it was only after the collapse of the Roman Empire that the foundations for Europe as we currently know it were cast. This was during the Middle Ages and modern period.

This module explores current schools of thought about Roman frontiers and frontier communities, both in the West and the East. Among other things it delves into the religious transformation (Christianisation), urbanisation, social differentiation and the rise of the market economy that collectively defined the structure and dynamics of society during and after the Middle Ages.
With an emphasis on economy and urbanisation, the module follows the transformation from the Dark Ages to the Industrial Revolution.

See the programme structure for information on how to integrate these modules into your master's programme.

Excavating at Udhruh Archaeological Project