Universiteit Leiden

nl en

World Archaeology (MA)

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

Field work experience plays an important 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 both historical and 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

Australopithecus africanus by Aschwin

Leiden University’s Human Origins group current fieldwork  focuses on the site of Les Cottés (France), which has a unique record of the archaeology of both the last Neanderthals and the earliest modern humans. The site has been submitted to various types of analyses that are revolutionizing our field, including ZOOMs of its rich faunal record and a study of the DNA preserved in its sediment matrix. In the past, we have been running large-scale excavations at Neumark-Nord 2 (Germany), a last interglacial locale which was once part of a large lake landscape, 125,000 years ago. The site has an excellent preservation of faunal and lithic material in fine-grained lake deposits, dating back about 125,000 years.

In this module you’ll get the chance to work with some of the material from these sites, all of which will be placed in the relevant archaeological context. By working closely with the scientists involved, you’ll get the opportunity to learn how archaeologists study the chronology, the environment, and the lithic and faunal materials at archaeological sites from the deep past.

An important focus of our research is the prehistory of early use of fire, in which graduate students can participate for their thesis work. We just started a laboratory “micro-excavation” of a 25,000 years old fire place from the Gravettian site Auneau (France), lifted as a sediment block and subsequently transported to Leiden.

Members of the research group, both staff and students, also participate in new studies of the Eugène Dubois collection, which include the type fossil of Homo erectus, at Naturalis (Museum of Natural History) in Leiden. The on-going multidisciplinary study of this important collection is yielding some fascinating topics for graduate student research. In cooperation with Indonesian colleagues we started  fieldwork at the site of Trinil, returning there over a century after Dubois’ discoveries in Java.

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.

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 India Company in the 17th century. Certainly, research methods have changed dramatically since then; nowadays they tend to be interdisciplinary, intercultural, and more sensitive to the socio-cultural frames of studied phenomena.

This module researches the historical trajectories of indigenous societies of the Americas from various perspectives. It employs theoretical approaches as well as methods and techniques used in archaeology, bioarchaeology, archaeometry, history, ethnoarchaeology and cultural anthropology.

You will be offered a wide range of study areas and topics. These include the research of colonial encounters, settlement archaeology, human mobility and the exchange of goods and ideas in the Circum-Caribbean region and Central America. Research topics related to visual culture, modes of religiosity, and identity will be addressed in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and the Central 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 the islands of Venezuela. If you choose to do this module you will be more than welcome to participate in these exciting research projects.

Study the past in connection to the present

The programme offers an interdisciplinary context, where archaeology, anthropology, the sciences, history, linguistics, landscape and heritage studies come together and become relevant for the present.

• Gain a broad knowledge of and deep-in-time insights into Native American history, focusing on the complex interrelationships between human and other-than-human beings, things, subsistence, and worldviews.

• Participate in field schools related to long-term research projects, such as archaeological excavations in the Caribbean, Nicaragua, and in the Central Andes including studies of landscapes, material culture and physical anthropology.

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

At present the research of Leiden Classical & Mediterranean Archaeology concentrates on new synergies developing in the Ancient World due to processes of connectivity, including cultural and imperial expansion, roughly in the period between 500 BC – AD 500.

Our program will make you familiar with the most important theories and exciting new fieldwork going on in this vibrant field. We will train you to study and understand these processes on different scales (local, regional and Eurasian/global) within a vast geographical space (covering Europe, Asia and Africa) and through different techniques coming from the Social Sciences & Humanities and the Hard Sciences.

Our current projects provide ample opportunity for fieldwork and research in Rome and the Molise (Italy), Commagene (Turkey), Alexandria (Egypt) and Portugal.

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

Excavating at Udhruh Archaeological Project