Students will learn to think about the material remains of the past, and especially about the interpretation of such remains, through different theories and a series of practical case studies. In the process, it will become clear how complicated the relationship between history and archaeology is, and how interdisciplinarity is no easy task. After completing the course, students are expected to be able to distinguish solid interpretation from ‘fake news’, and to know how to approach archaeological remains in their historical contexts.
This course is part of the minor Archaeology. |
The course is organised as a series of capita selecta, which will guide the participants chronologically through examples of material culture dating from ca. 500 to ca. 1500 AD. The main question that unifies everything is in how far, when, and how material culture can be useful to scholars, and how such sources can [or cannot] be meaningfully studied in conjunction with written texts from the same period. Why, for instance, have certain types of brooches been labelled ‘Frankish’, and what does the use of this term presuppose and imply? And is this the same ‘Frankish’ as we find in early medieval historiography? Can human remains with stakes through their hearts be sensibly interpreted as ‘vampires’? What new insights about manuscript culture can we gain by approaching a medieval codex not as a series of texts, but as an object? What can we learn about urban culture if we do not confine research to written sources, but focus on the built environment itself? Through reflecting on such questions, it will become eminently clear that researchers can never get away with stating that ‘archaeology has proven that….’, for the interpretation of material culture is as varied and ever-changing as the interpretation of the past itself. A fieldtrip to a Medieval site in the Netherlands is part of the course.
The courses in this minor are taught in English. If all students are native Dutch speakers, the course will be taught in Dutch. Students may complete their assignments, papers and tests in either Dutch or English.