AR1CME-Ancient Civilisations of the Middle East and Egypt

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Roger Matthews


Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module provides an introduction to the archaeology of the civilisations of the ancient Middle East and Egypt. The module will cover major episodes of the region’s past, spanning the Neolithic to the Persian Achaemenid Empire and the Roman period, i.e. 10,000 BC to AD 300. The focus will be on issues with contemporary significance, including the development of agriculture, human migration, urbanisation, death and burial, everyday life, and the rise and fall of major empires.


•    To provide an introduction to the archaeology and early history of the Middle East and north-east Africa, with emphasis on the civilisations of Mesopotamia, the Levant, Anatolia, Iran and Egypt. 

•    To consider the nature and interpretation of archaeological and textual sources in approaching the past of the Middle East and Egypt.

•    To consider major issues in the development of human society in the Middle East and Egypt, including the origins and evolution of villages, agriculture, complex societies, urbanism, literacy, and empires. 

•    To introduce students to a sample of contemporary field projects in the archaeology of the Middle East and Egypt.


Assessable learning outcomes:

On successful completion of this module a student should: 

•    Have a broad overview of the archaeology and early history of the Middle East and Egypt.

•    Appreciate the significance of the archaeology of the Middle East and Egypt within the context of the development of human society, and its relevance to issues of contemporary global concern.

•    Appreciate the importance of critical approaches to archaeological and textual sources within the context of the Middle East and Egypt.


Additional outcomes:

By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:

•    Understanding and critical awareness of a range of primary and secondary sources.

•    Written skills in analysis and presentation.

•    Appreciation of, and ability to apply, methods and theories of archaeological and historical analysis.

•    Appreciation of artefacts and museum displays as elements of past societies of the Middle East and Egypt.


Outline content:

The module will provide a period-by-period consideration of the major peoples, societies and civilisations of the ancient Middle East and Egypt, focusing on developments in Mesopotamia (Iraq, Syria), Iran, Anatolia (Turkey), the Levant, and Egypt. Building on a basic understanding of the chronological framework, the module will include detailed review of specific issues, including: the Neolithic transformation; early metallurgy and craft specialisation; urbanisation and the origins of bureaucracy in writing and sealing practices; death, burial and cult; trade and economic interaction; empires and imperial rise and collapse.

Students will gain an intellectual appreciation of important past cultures as well as an understanding of how contemporary archaeology in the Middle East and Egypt is situated within complex social and political settings.


Global context:

Teaching of this module will strongly situate the past of the Middle East and Egypt within current issues of global concern, including migration, identity, ethnicity, diversity and the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Teaching will be through well-illustrated lectures with student participation. There will   also be structured seminars in which students will debate selected major issues. There     will be a field trip to the Ancient Near East and Egypt section of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, for which students will be assigned specific tasks related to the museum’s collections. Engagement with online resources, such as Google Earth and ABZU, will form a key component of the module.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 4
External visits 6
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Report 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write one essay of 2500 words. The mark for this essay will count towards assessment (60% of the overall module mark).

Students will also produce a site report of 1500 words based on relevant archaeological sites studied during the module. Detailed advice will be given on how to produce the site report, including the need to assess the relative importance of textual and archaeological evidence in understanding the chosen site. The report will count for 40% of the overall mark.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-assessment in August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 15 May 2018


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