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This course is available through clearing
BA Latin and French
Year of entry: 2020
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Course unit details:
Origins of States: The Archaeology of Urbanism in the Near East
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
Mesopotamia occupies a key place in the history of human society – the setting in which a series of ‘firsts’ appear; the first writing, the first kings, the first cities, the first legal systems, the first literature. These developments had a fundamental influence on subsequent civilizations, including the classical world and even society today. All these developments emerge during the 1000 years that are centred around 3000BC, but to understand them we need a wider perspective as it wasn’t a simple phenomenon or a single event. This course considers the late Neolithic society from which these urban states emerged as well as the way in which early states matured into the second millennium BC. Through a series of case studies, this course explores the major theoretical perspectives, the archaeological data, economy and the social changes that occurred within this region. These changes, however, were far from uniform or inevitable. The course examines the distinctive local social trajectories and the interaction between different regions as well as how these changes impacted on religion, the beginnings of writing, identity, exclusion, memory and social roles. The different theoretical perspectives of archaeological and textual sources are also explored to understand how the study of the topic has changed.
- To become familiar with the geography of Mesopotamia, the chronologies and key sites through a series of case studies.
- To understand late prehistoric society in Mesopotamia and its subsequent changes
- To understand social organisation within an early urban society, as well develop approaches to understanding early urban states as dynamic, unstable entities.
- To develop a greater appreciation of the changing ways in which material culture is used in the creation of social identities.
- To improve understanding of the influence of inter-regional contact.
- To examine long-term patterns of social change.
By the end of the course students should/will be able to:
The following topics will be covered within the course. Some will be spread over more than one week. Some will be covered through lectures; others will be covered through the oral presentations, seminars and the creation of the course Wiki.
Introduction to the region and period of study
History of study and changing disciplinary perspectives
Texts and assumptions (including issues around collecting)
Material culture and alternative perspectives
Summary of developments prior to 4000BC.
Overview of the later Neolithic.
Concepts of urbanism
Definitions and structure of the urban state
Origins of urbanism; inter-related processes
Primary state development in southern; secondary; secondary state development in northern Mesopotamia?
Scale and political integration
Contrasts between different parts of Mesopotamia
Changes through time
Resisting urbanism; nomadism and the fringes of society
Power and hierarchies
Hierarchy and the state in 4th millennium Mesopotamia
Developments in the 3rd and early 2nd millennia
Local and regional identities
Dispersed communities in the Late Neolithic
Colonies and local resistance in 4th millennium north Mesopotamia
Changing food practices
Food, drink and feasting
The spread and decline of painted pottery in Mesopotamia; evolution of simplicity
Iconography of the early state
The appearance and use of writing and record keeping
Death and burial
What happened to burials in the 4th millennium?
Theatres of cruelty: the Ur Royal Cemetery
Household mortuary practices
Slaves and prisoners of war
Teaching and learning methods
- 11 x 2 hour lectures
- 7 x 1 seminar sessions involving discussion around weekly readings structured around theoretical and thematic approaches to the period, balancing archaeological and textual material.
- 1 x mini-conference (c.4 hours, dependent on number of students) involving oral presentations and discussion around themes.
- Collaborative creation of a course Wiki through student contributions.
- There is a comprehensive Blackboard site including:
- Module handbook
- Assessment materials
- All reading for preparation of weekly seminars
- Student-developed Wiki
- Links to other e-learning resources
Knowledge and understanding
- Demonstrate an understanding of the detailed interpretation of specific key sites and their implications for society.
- Express an in-depth knowledge of material culture in the Near East from later prehistory to the mid-2nd millennium BC.
- Articulate an awareness of the impact of social, geographic and climatic factors of the development of human settlement in the Near East.
- Understand how textually- and archaeologically-informed approaches to the past can draw on different theoretical perspectives.
- Show an understanding of the complex interactions between different aspects of past societies.
- Demonstrate and understanding of how technological and organisational change occurs, and the ways in which it articulates with society and social change.
- Become accustomed to using primary archaeological data, and its biases and limitations.
- Understand the potential of modern media to explore research questions.
- Critically examine published works.
- Contribute to and critically edit other students’ contributions to the course Wiki.
- Experience of oral presentation;
- Use of PowerPoint or Prezi to support presentations;
- Use of standard Wiki software to create an online resource.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Make use of enhanced team-working and individual research skills, in other learning environments;
- Independent research skills;
- Creation of co-operative online resources.
- Analytical skills
- Cognitive Skills ¿ appreciate the historical, social, cultural, and political context of archaeological interpretation ¿ apply scholarly and theoretical concepts to an understanding of social organisation in urban societies ¿ appreciate the issues in using primary and secondary sources of data
- Personal Capabilities ¿ be able to work effectively within a group ¿ be able to edit the work of others and accept editing of own work ¿ be able to present own ideas
- Project management
- Practical and Professional Skills ¿ communicate effectively in writing, verbally and in discussion ¿ use presentation skills to support communication ¿ be able to critically evaluate one¿s own and others¿ opinions ¿ be able to use wiki-software and write effectively for a wider audience
- Generic Competencies ¿ use diverse sources of evidence to draw and present conclusions ¿ ability to critically assess existing interpretations
Formative or Summative
Weighting within unit (if summative)
Contribution to a course Wiki
Formative and Summative
- Written feedback on course wiki and oral presentation delivered via the School feedback template.
- Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)
- Peer feedback on Wiki contribution, both through the comments facility and particularly through the collaborative editing process.
- Exam feedback available after completion of the relevant examination period, delivered via the School feedback template.
Algaze, G. 1993. The Uruk World System. The Dynamics of Expansion of Early Mesopotamian Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Algaze, G. 2008. Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization: The Evolution of an Urban Landscape. Chicago University Press.
Matthews, R. 2003. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia. Theories and Approaches. London: Routledge.
Mieroop, M. van de. 1999. The Ancient Mesopotamian city. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pollock, S. 1999. Ancient Mesopotamia: The Eden that Never Was. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Potts, D.T. 1997. Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. London: Athlone Press.
Radner, K., & Robson, E. (2011). The Oxford handbook of cuneiform culture. Oxford University Press.
Yoffee, N. (2005). Myths of the archaic state: Evolution of the earliest cities, states, and civilizations. Cambridge University Press.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Assessment written exam||2|
|Practical classes & workshops||4|
|Independent study hours|
|Stuart Campbell||Unit coordinator|