Institute of Archaeology

Aegean Prehistory: major themes and current debates

Aegean Prehistory: major theses and current debates

This course explores the societies of the Aegean c. 7000-1500 BC within the framework of the wider Mediterranean and Near Eastern world.

Particular emphasis is placed on the societies of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, and the emergence and attributes of early palace-based states on Crete.

Aims of the course

This course provides an in-depth survey of Aegean prehistory from the Neolithic to the early Late Bronze Age (c. 7000-1450 BC), focusing on the origins and developmental dynamics of the early Aegean and the Minoan palatial societies. A companion course, focused on the later Late Bronze

Age, particularly the Mycenaean culture, is taught in term II. Drawing on the region’s exceptional wealth of archaeological data, and set within a theoretically informed, problem-oriented framework, the course explores alternative paradigms and aims to introduce students to current

interpretations, debates and avenues for future research. It locates the Aegean relative to contemporary Mediterranean and Near Eastern societies, and thereby generates a link between traditionally separate fields. Themes of recurrent importance include social, political and economic organisation, material culture, trade and exchange, the archaeologies of ideology, cult and death, and the integration of textual evidence with material data.


On successful completion of this course a student should:

  • Have a solid overview of major developments and interpretative issues in Aegean prehistory, with greater in-depth knowledge of topics on which coursework has been written, and a general understanding of how the Aegean region fits into a wider East Mediterranean and European context.
  • Understand the main interpretative paradigms that have dominated the field, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, enabling assessment and criticism of the structure or rationale of arguments in the current literature.
  • Recognise a broad range of the material culture from the period, and understand its social, cultural or other significance as well as its interpretive potential.
  • Be able to explore data from the prehistoric Aegean using a wide range of theoretical approaches current in archaeology.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course, students will have enhanced their skills in critical reading and reflection, be aware of how to apply ideas and methods to bodies of data, and improved their peer debating skills. They will have gained the background required to define and pursue original research in Aegean prehistory.

Teaching Methods

The course is taught as a series of 10 weekly seminars, whose purpose is to discuss and debate the issues defined for that week. Seminars have weekly essential readings, which students will be expected to have read in order to be able to follow and actively contribute to the discussion. An optional handling session with material from the Institute collections will be arranged.

There will be an optional museum visit to study the Aegean material in the British Museum.

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG195
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Todd Whitelaw
  • Prerequisite: This course does not have a formal prerequisite. However, students should ideally have some familiarity with Aegean prehistory through previous study, so as to ensure that they have the background to get the most out of the Masters level seminars.
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students


  • Running in 2017-18

Bookmark and Share