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Special Topic: The Development of Mediterranean Civilisations - A Landscape Archaeological Approach - ARC00081H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Kevin Walsh
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

Today, many of us see the Mediterranean as a holiday destination - from the beaches of Spain to boat trips around the Greek islands and visits to the great Classical cities such as Rome and Athens. European farming has its origins in the Mediterranean. Once established, the origins of metalworking and complex societies also developed in and spread from this region. After the Minoan and Mycenaean periods, the great Classical civilisations and empires developed; the obvious examples are Greece and Rome. This module provides an overview of the development of all of these societies and emphasises the importance of interdisciplinary work in investigating Mediterranean archaeology.

Related modules

A directed option - students must pick a Special Topic module and have a choice of which to take

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

Special Topics focus upon the archaeology of a well defined time, space or theme and the modules seek to allow students, in small groups to focus upon primary source material and to apply to it the theoretical and thematic perspectives learned over your first and second years. The aim is to facilitate the acquisition of deeper knowledge of one aspect of the past than has been possible in more general courses.

Specifically this module aims:

  • To present an overview of the development of the key societies across the Mediterranean from the transition to farming to the end of the Roman Empire
  • To evaluate and critique the evidence for economic and cultural development in the Mediterranean along with evidence for environmental exploitation and management.
  • To develop research, analytical and communication skills.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the main cultural developments, and their geographical and chronological frameworks, for the archaeology of the Mediterranean from prehistory to the Roman period
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of the relationships between people and environments in the Mediterranean
  • Critically discuss 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
  • Critically evaluate and contextualise different types of archaeological methods and source material
  • Communicate an in-depth, logical and structured argument, supported by other people’s studies and relevant evidence.

Module content

The Mediterranean is home to the most famous ancient civilisations, including the Greeks and Romans. This region comprises complex environmental and human histories; in many ways, both have been dynamic and unstable, but with periods of relative stability when infamous cultures and civilisations have developed.

The module will build upon some of the themes covered through earlier modules including (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 end of hunter-gatherer societies 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, to name two. We then 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 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 how people have exploited and managed their environments from the prehistoric periods through to the Roman Empire.


Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders in class

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Bintliff, J.L. (2012) The complete archaeology of Greece: from hunter-gatherers to the 20th century A.D. /. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell.

Broodbank, C. (2013) The making of the Middle Sea: a history of the Mediterranean from the beginning to the emergence of the Classical World / Cyprian Broodbank. Thames & Hudson.

Walsh, K. (2013) The archaeology of Mediterranean landscapes: human-environment interaction from the Neolithic to the Roman period / Kevin Walsh, University of York. Cambridge University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.