Institute of Archaeology

The Archaeology of Chiefdoms

This 3rd year course focuses on the theoretical approaches to, and empirical study of, the complex polities often referred to in the archaeological and ethnographic literature as "chiefdoms." The course will cover topics such as: neo-evolutionist theories of political authority; 'seeing' chiefdoms in the archaeological record; Marxist, materialist, Darwinian and agency-based explanations of chiefdom development, structure and dynamics; chiefdom political economy and political ideology; cycling, transformation and collapse of chiefdoms; and current debates surrounding the chiefdom concept. Two to three key readings will be assigned each week accompanied by set discussion questions. Students are expected to prepare in advance for each week's seminar discussion, and to evaluate the theoretical arguments and / or empirical evidence presented in the assigned readings.

Course information

  • Code: ARCL3059
  • Course unit value: 0.5 units
  • Coordinator: José Oliver
  • Prerequisite:
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students

  • Moodle page: open»
  • Reading list:


  • Not running in 2017-18

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