Institute of Archaeology


Cities, States and Religions in Ancient India

This course focuses on the ‘early-historic’ period of ancient India during the mid’ first millennium BC to the later empires of the mid first millennium AD.

This course focuses on the ‘early-historic’ period of ancient India, from the appearance of monarchical states, urbanism, and new religious traditions during the mid’ first millennium BC to the later empires of the mid first millennium AD. However, the relationship with, and the transition from the preceding chalcolithic cultures will also be considered.

The course draws mainly on archaeological sources, but also incorporating debates from related disciplines, e.g., art-history, history, anthropology and religious studies. Discussion of key economic, political and social developments in South Asia’s ancient past will be situated within wider theoretical and methodological debates in the discipline as a whole, such as: theories of states and empires; archaeology of religion and religious change; landscape v. ‘site’ based methods; food and the body; gender; pilgrimage studies; water and the environment; and the politics of archaeology.

Aims and Objectives of the course

  • Provide an introduction to the archaeology and art of early historic India.
  • Introduce students to a variety of sources including ceramics, sculpture, architecture, inscriptions, coins, environmental data, landscape survey data, and relevant texts.
  • Examine key research themes including state formation, urbanisation and aspects of religious, economic and political history
  • Situate regional material alongside a critical consideration of issues related to the theory and method of South Asian archaeology.
  • Overview of the key phases and regional variation of the South Asian archaeological record during the early-historic period.
  • Understand the key research issues and debates that drive current theoretical and analytical work in the region.
  • Recognise key aspects of the material record under discussion during the course.
  • Be able to assess the relevance of Western theoretical archaeological approaches to South Asian contexts.

Learning Outcomes

  • observation and critical reflection
  • application of acquired knowledge
  • oral presentation skills

Teaching Methods

10 x two-hour sessions comprising a combination of lectures (17 hours) and seminar-style discussion (3 hours).

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG276
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinators: Julia Shaw
  • Prerequisite: This course does not have a prerequisite.
  • Handbook: 

For registered students

  • Moodle page: open
  • Reading list:


  • Not Running in 2019-20