Accessibility statement

World Archaeology I: Mediterranean civilisations


Module leader: Kevin Walsh


The Mediterranean is home to the most famous ancient civilisations, including the Greeks and Romans. The module will build upon some of the themes covered in Prehistory to the Present (early humans/hunter-gatherers, the transition to farming, the development of the Roman world). We will start with an overview of the Mediterranean landscape and environment, as well as the main methodological approaches. We then consider the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, followed by an assessment of the transition to farming -  This is followed by a review of the great Bronze Age cultures of the Minoans and the Mycenaeans just to name two.

We then move on to consider the Iron Age, the Etruscans, the Phoenicians and other groups then dominated much of the region, and we will consider some key developments in these areas.

Throughout the module, we will consider how all of these different groups developed their economies and their religious and ideological systems. Just as importantly, we will also assess how these peoples related to, and engaged with the incredible range of natural environments that characterise the Mediterranean. The module adopts a "landscape approach" assessing the background to the development of Mediterranean landscapes and then considering the ways in which people have exploited and managed their environments from the prehistoric periods through to the Roman Empire. 

(Key periods/themes - Mediterranean prehistory, protohistory and ending with classical archaeology, study of environment and economy/diet as well as some aspects of ideology and ritual)


The aims of this module are:

  • To build upon themes/subjects covered in Prehistory to the Present, but with a focus on the Mediterranean.
  • To present an overview of the development of the key societies across the Mediterranean from early prehistory to the end of the Roman Empire
  • To consider the notion of “Mediterraneanism” and why the early “civilisations” developed in the Mediterranean.
  • To assess the movement of the humans out of Africa, and the emergence of sophisticated hunting, gatherer/fishing groups, and then the development of the first complex farming societies.
  • To present an overview of the development the great protohistoric cultures (including the Minoans and Mycenaeans).
  • To discuss how and why the Classical civilisations in Greece and then Italy emerged.
  • To address each of these periods via an assessment of the economy, evidence for environmental exploitation and management, and the development of religion (myths, shrines, temples and the disposal of the dead).
  • To bring together the above themes in a discussion of how archaeologists can integrate evidence for economy, religion and environment in an attempt to understand how past lifeways in the Mediterranean developed, i.e. adopting a landscape approach

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Outline the main cultural developments, and their geographical and chronological frameworks, for the archaeology of the Mediterranean from earliest prehistory to the Roman period
  • Consider the relationship between people and environment in the Mediterranean
  • Discuss and explain the principal archaeological evidence in the area of study and demonstrate a critical appreciation of the potential biases and problems in the interpretation of the evidence
  • Evaluate and contextualise different types of archaeological source material
  • Critically appraise other people’s studies and produce logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence


The World Archaeology provide a range of important employability skills including:
  • Self management: because this is a lecture course you will need to manage your time carefully and should be spending about 10 hours a week reading the literature suggested for each topic- this will help you when writing your essay and preparing for the exam
  • Communication: you will really need to develop your writing communication skills in this module - writing a clear argument based on evidence from your reading is key to your assessment and you get the chance to practice this in your formative essay in preparation for the exam
  • Problem solving: you need to be able to retrieve, analyse and evaluate information from different sources
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: you will gain a strong knowledge of other cultures and customs in other countries and should appreciate the diversity of issues

Thoroughly enjoyed by all who took it- 100% satisfaction!