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PhD courses

Archaeocartography: The Challenges and Possibilities of Archaeological Distribution Mapping

Date: 6-7 May 2020

Venue: Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)

Aarhus University, Campus Moesgaard
Moesgård Allé 20, 4230-232
8270 Højbjerg

Organisers: Professor Søren Sindbæk and Postdoc Pieterjan Deckers.

Short description:

Distribution maps have been part of the archaeological toolbox since the dawn of the discipline. They serve as heuristic and analytical tools in research and as a visual form of data presentation in publication, shedding light on settlement structures, cultural territories and patterns of economic exchange and social interaction in the past. Today, mapping has become easier than ever, thanks to accessible GIS applications, widely available digitized spatial data, and decreasing technical limitations for publication. However, while there is ample scholarly attention for more sophisticated techniques of spatial analysis, there is surprisingly little recent debate about the creation, use and reception of the most common form of archaeological distribution maps - a relatively simple map representation of structured, spatial data concerning a limited set of archaeological phenomena. 

This PhD course is organized around three basic but underexplored challenges in the creation of such humble, but ubiquitous distribution maps: classification, normalisation and visualisation. 

Further information and registration

The registration deadline is Monday 6 April 2020. For information and registration, please see https://phdcourses.dk/Course/72669

For additional information and programme, download pdf.

Approaching pottery studies: Current perspectives and future directions

Date: 29-30 April 2020


A prime source of information for archaeologists, pottery has been studied for centuries across a wide range of cultures and periods. From a long-held focus on types and styles, ceramic study is today amongst the most dynamic and diversifying branches within archaeology, where innovative conceptual approaches and methodologies are opening new, exciting avenues into the study of the past. If defining typologies and chronologies remains the priority of any researcher dealing with this type of material, analytical approaches have considerably expanded the number of questions that archaeologists can answer. These include, for example, reconstructing the biography of pots through the profiling of food residues and use wear, mapping the provenance and processing of clay and temper, charting the use, recycling and trade, to mention but a few topics. Further important developments concern the study of people-pot interactions and the ways in which ceramic shapes and decoration evolved as a result of changing social, cultural, and economic relations. The study of the humble pot, thus, is offering new ways in which archaeologists can study societal development, culture transformation, socio-ecological changes and resilience in high-definition. This research led-course will provide the participants with an introduction to a diverse range of methodologies for ceramic studies, from traditional, typologically-driven approaches to state-of-the-art laboratory analyses. In so doing, the course will provide a forum to discuss and reflect on how new research approaches are gradually transforming archaeology.


The course will offer research-led teaching on methods and techniques for the study of pottery and will focus on two main objectives:

  • To explore the importance of pottery study for archaeological research
  • To explore and discuss traditional and innovative approaches to ceramic analysis

The course structure consists of three modules, as detailed below. Having introduced the basics of pottery studies in module 1, the following two modules will focus on two themes that are at the forefront of current archaeological debates: Pottery and the human landscape and Urban contexts and ceramics. The aim is to encourage students from archaeology and related disciplines from the humanities to consider and discuss the potential of applying innovative approaches to their own research.


Module 1: Studying pottery – the basics

The first module will offer an introduction to pottery studies. What is a potsherd? How do we study it? What types of information can we gain from it? By focusing specifically on traditional methods of recording and studying potsherds, Module 1 will address these questions and set the background for Modules 2 and 3.

Module 2: Pottery and the human landscape

The second module will explore how the study of pottery can contribute to our understanding of the evolution of the human landscape. What can pottery tell us about changes in settlement patterns? How much can we rely on material collected from surveys? Lectures will be focusing on these questions, drawing some answers from selected case studies.

Module 3: Urban contexts and ceramics

The third module will explore how to approach the study of pottery collected in ancient urban environments. The aim is to discuss what types of data archaeologists can gather from pottery retrieved in sealed urban contexts, and the traditional and innovative methods used to study them.


To be announced - please check: urbnet.au.dk/news/phd-courses/

Target group:

PhD students from archaeology and related disciplines with little background knowledge on ceramics




The course will offer lectures, exercises and a workshop where active participation will be expected. Each module consists of an overview on the main topic, followed by lectures discussing specific themes and applications, group exercises and Q&A  sessions.

Group exercises and workshop

These will consist of group discussions related to the lectures, reading material supplied and the case studies prepared by the participants. Active participation and critical engagements are expected during group activities. On Day 2, we will host a workshop to discuss case studies prepared by the participants and visit resources and laboratories facilities at Moesgaard Campus. The latter will include a short introduction and visit to relevant ceramic collections at Moesgaard Museum.




Proposed keynote speakers and lecturers:

Professor Rubina Raja, CAS and UrbNet, Aarhus University

Topic: urban dynamics and networks in a million sherds – Jerash

Professor Anders Lindahl, Department of Geology, Lund University (to be confirmed)

Topic: ethnoarchaeological study of pottery production in Iron Age southern Africa and Sweden

Dr Marc Vander Linden, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University

Topic: From production to migration

Dr Emanuele Intagliata, UrbNet, Aarhus University

Topic: Introduction and history of research

Alex Peterson,  UrbNet, Aarhus University

Topic: Ceramics, the basics

Dr Gry Barfod, UrbNet and Institute for Geoscience, Aarhus University

Topic: Profiling pottery

Dr Carmen Ting, Cyprus University - to be confirmed

Topic: Petrography

Dr Bente Phillipsen, UrbNet and Department of Physics, Aarhus University

Topic: Residue analysis

Dates and time:

29 & 30 April:

29 April: 09:00-17:00 - dinner in the evening

30 April: 08:30-13:00


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) Aarhus University Moesgård Allé 20, DK-8270 Højbjerg Denmark, Building 4230, 2nd floor. (http://urbnet.au.dk)

Application deadline:

Please apply for a seat via https://events.au.dk/approachingpotterystudiesF2020 no later than 1 March 2020.

When signing up in the application facility, you are kindly requested to upload the following documents as PDF files:

  1. A case study of 1-2 pages, which deals with one or more of the subthemes of the course: Human landscapes and/or Urban Contexts. The cases can relate to an own project, previous experience, or a case inspired by academic literature. These will be reviewed by the course organising team and discussed during the workshop;
  2. A max 2-page CV;
  3. A max 1-page cover-letter, motivating the reasons for  participation


Assistant Professors Federica Sulas and Emanuele Intagliata.

For more information, visit https://phdcourses.dk/Course/65813.



Previous PhD courses



Networks in Archaeology 2.0

Date: 22-23 May 2019



Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)
Aarhus University, Campus Moesgaard
Moesgård Allé 20, 4230-232
8270 Højbjerg



Professor Rubina Raja and Professor MSO Søren M. Sindbæk

For more information, visit phdcourses.dk/Course/64993.

Houses in an Urban Context – High Definition Approaches, 1-2 November 2018

PhD Course, Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University

Date: Thursday 1st – Friday 2nd November 2018



For a long time urban archaeology was primarily concerned with monumental architecture, public buildings, and single finds of high artistic value. On a broader level, the reconstruction of the political and cultural development of civic life was the main concern of both archaeological and historical research of past cities. Recently however, the everyday practice of living in cities has begun to arrest attention. There is a growing interest in the reconstruction of every day social practice and the understanding of the interaction between families and individuals in an urban environment. At the heart of such advances is research into households and domestic spaces, which form the smallest units of the cityscape, both architecturally and socially. Domestic archaeology offers a unique opportunity to investigate how religion, gender, ethnicity, and identity shaped the life of the individual in the past.

Most promising are holistic approaches to the study of domestic space, which pay attention to social, behavioural and material aspects of houses and their inhabitants. To further our understanding of these complex processes and to get a truly high-resolution image of the complex use of domestic spaces, archaeological sciences have developed news tools that help to develop more precise narratives of the uses of domestic space, as well as to review and re-evaluate existing narratives. They are reshaping our understanding of, and approaches to, domestic archaeology. New conceptual frameworks and technological advances have pushed back the frontiers of archaeology, allowing us to interrogate and interpret domestic spaces by revising old narratives and developing new questions.

The course will introduce key current themes and methods of domestic archaeology. The focus will be on both conceptual and hands-on archaeological approaches to investigate houses in past cities, in cultures ranging from Classical Antiquity to the late Medieval period


Introduction and aims:

The course will offer research-based teaching on the concepts and methods of household archaeology and innovative ways to examine domestic spaces in urban contexts. The aims are:

·         To understand the scope, the objective and the methods of domestic archaeology. The course will equip students with basic conceptual and analytical tools to analyse domestic spaces in an urban context;

·         To understand the entanglement of domestic space, material culture, and identity;

·         To understand and to assess the potential of scientific methods and high definition archaeology for research on houses and households;

·         To identify research issues, problems, and research questions inherent to domestic archaeology, including potential limitations and constraints;

·         To appreciate the interdependency between scientific and traditional archaeological dating methods, emphasising the importance of accurate context recording and sampling (preselection) to construct high definition chronologies.

·         To consider the value of cross-cultural comparison of the use of domestic space in different past cultures

The course has a focus on key questions of contemporary archaeological, historical, and material science studies.


Learning outcomes:

The PhD modular course will enable participants to:

·         describe important methods and tools of domestic archaeology;

·         discover about how people interact with the houses in which they live;

·         compare the approaches and methods of domestic archaeology in different archaeological disciplines;

·         reflect on the relationship between humans and things in a domestic context and the interplay between houses and the city;

·         theorise about the potential of high definition methods for domestic archaeology;

·         consider and assess the application of various methods in their own work.


The course will consist of a mixture of lectures, group work, and discussions in which the participants will be expected to actively engage. The lectures will be provided by experts working on domestic archaeology in an urban context from a variety of different approaches. Students will also be required to present case-studies from their own work, to take part in in group exercises and Q&A sessions related to the lectures. In addition, two themed workshops will be held on the last day of the course. The language of the course is English.


Preliminary Programme of Lectures (with potential speakers in brackets and an overview of the scope each lecture)

1.      Introduction (TBA)

·         Why is domestic archaeology important?

·         Thinking about houses in an important setting

·         Using the excavations of the houses of the NW quarter in Jerash as a case-study


2.      Approaching the houses of past societies through archaeology (Stephanie Wynne-Jones)

·         Examining changing approaches to houses in archaeology of different regions and time over the last decade or so

·         Drawing approaches from antrhopology and cross cultural comparison

·         Changing theoretical approaches and methods


3.      How to excavate a house (Søren Sindbaek)

·         Ribe as case study. Thinking about the challenges that houses present to the field archaeologist

·         What kinds of questions can we hope to answer by excavating houses

·         How do you develop a strategy for excavating and documenting house sites


4.      Houses and neighbourhoods in the Roman World (Hanna Stöger)

·         Thinking about the relationship of houses to one another and in the larger context of urban settlements

·         How can we reconstruct neighbourhoods in ancient cities? How might the concept of ‘the neighbourhood’ have been different in past cultures from our own?

·         How can we use GIS tools like Space Syntax to analyse the relationship of houses to their urban setting?


5.      The spatial analysis of house layouts and associated finds for the Middle Ages (Speaker TBC)

·         Turning our attention inward to the subject of the individual house

·         Looking at architectural appearance, room layout and presence of finds as useful evidence for use of space

·         Tools of spatial analysis to explore how house spaces were used to structure familial and social relationships

·         A focus on the Medieval period and for the advantages and disadvantages of the evidence from this period


6.      Drawing new information from old records – Dura Europas as case study (Jennifer Baird)

·         Exploring the potential to apply new approaches and ask new questions of data from old excavations

·         Considering the evaluation of old excavation publications

·         Drawing information from archival records

·         Focussing on the city of Dura Europas a case study


7.      Reading the use of space in soil (Søren Munch Kristiansen)

·         Typically in situ preservation of finds within houses is very poor so how can geosciences allow us to investigate the use of space through soil analysis?

·         The potential of using these techniques to investigate the surroundings of houses in cases where permanent house-floors make their application inside impossible.

·         In what conditions can these techniques be applied? What potential might they have for application to sites/periods where they have not yet been much used?


Case studies

Each participant is required to submit a case study or abstract of 1-2 pages beforehand, which deals with one or more of the subthemes of the course:  



The exercises will consist of discussions and group work related to the lectures and the student case studies.


Group work

On the second day, there will be group work based on the case studies submitted by the participants and the cases illustrated by the lectures.


ECTS credits and successful completion requirements

The course will count for 3 ECTS credits. PhD students are required to submit a case study (1-2 pages) related to one or more of the subthemes addressed by the course, to discuss this at the course, and to engage actively in class discussions and group work.


Time and venue

1st-2nd November 2018

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)

Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society

Moesgård Allé 20

8270 Højbjerg



Organisation and contacts:

Dr. Michael Blömer (michael.bloemer@cas.au.dk) and Dr. Chris Dickenson (christopher.dickenson@cas.au.dk


Application deadline

14 October


Geoarchaeology Digest, 8-9 May 2018

Venue: UrbNet, Aarhus, Denmark.


Organisation and contacts:

Federica Sulas (sulas@cas.au.dk)

Genevieve Holdridge (g.holdridge@geo.au.dk)


Download outline and programme



Registration closed.

Spring School: Urban Religion, Rome, 12-16 Mar 2018

International Spring School in Paris: "The Ancient City", 25 Feb-3 Mar 2018

Kolloquium Phd/Post-Doc der Klassischen Archäologie im Wintersemester 2017/2018, 13-16 December 2017

PhD course, co-organized by Rubina Raja and Søren M. Sindbæk, in Kiel, 13-16 December 2017.

Download programme

Networks in Archaeology, 6-7 December 2017

Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University: https://phdcourses.dk/Course/58491



Network analysis is increasingly explored as a way to trace complex cultural flows and fluctuations in past societies. In the past decade, archaeological studies have shown how important knowledge on networks interactions can be acquired through analysis of quantitative data, or through assessment of qualitative evidence such as the formation or disruption of connectivity. This research-led course explores how to integrate formal network analysis with contextual archaeological and historical approaches in analysing relationships and interaction in the past. It introduces the students ‘hands-on’ to advanced modes of quantitative network analysis through practical workshops. It brings together approaches that point the way as to how contextual interpretations of network data may clarify the structure, dynamics and agency of past connectivity, and reflects on how this may inform an understanding of past practices and interactions.  

Introduction and aims:

The course will offer research-led teaching on the concepts and methods of network analyses in archaeology and will focus on three main objectives:

  • To develop knowledge on network theory and concepts in archaeology. The course will equip students with basic conceptual and analytical tools to assess the nature, significance and application of network analysis in archaeology.  
  • To train students to assess how archaeological and historical questions may be productively framed as network problems, and how network data is identified and processed in archaeology.
  • To develop reflection as to how formal analysis methods, together with qualitative, contextual approaches, may contribute to elucidate and interpret network structure, dynamics and change in the archaeology and history of past societies?

The course aims to encourage students from archaeology, history and related disciplines from the humanities to consider and discuss the potential of network analysis to their research questions by building on the latest analytical advances.


The course will offer a set of specifically designed modules to provide conceptual and analytical background to the applications of network analyses to key research topic of contemporary archaeology and related disciplines.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the course, the participants should be able to:

  • describe key principles of archaeological network data and network analysis methods;
  • consider and assess the application of network analyses in their own work;
  • reflect on, analyse, and critically discuss interpretations of the past based on network analyses.


The course will offer a mixture of lectures, exercises and workshops where active participation will be expected. The language of the course is English.

Case studies

Each participant is required to submit a case study or abstract of 1-2 pages beforehand, which deals with questions relevant to the course. The cases can relate to an own project, previous experiences, or a case inspired by academic literature. These will be reviewed by the course organising team and discussed during the workshops.






ECTS credits and successful completion requirements

The course will count 3 ECTS credits. PhD students are required to submit a case study (1-2 pages) related to one or more of the subthemes addressed by the course, to discuss this at the course, and to engage actively in class discussions and activities. 

Organisation and contacts:

Prof. Rubina Raja (rubina.raja@cas.au.dk)

Prof. Søren Sindbæk (farksms@cas.au.dk)



Dates and time:

6 – 7 December 2017,



UrbNet, AU Campus Moesgård, Moesgård Allé 20, 8270 Højbjerg, building 4230, room 232

Application / registration:

Please apply for a spot via https://auws.au.dk/networksinarchaeologyE2017 no later than 26 November 2017.

This course is part of UrbNet:

UrbNet PhD courses

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) organises a series of four PhD courses designed to create an environment for discussions about the latest developments within well-known fields of archaeology such as cultural layers, dating methods and typology, as well as exploring new developments in isotope analysis on archaeological material and network theory. Each course stands alone, and can be signed up for individually.

With these courses UrbNet wishes to encourage a wider use and a more in depth understanding of these tools in order to further the process of refining the precision of dates, origin of materials and the interpretation of the archaeological record. They are all indispensable aspects of the “High Definition“ approach that UrbNet aspire to develop further in context. The approach aims to maximize the amount and quality of data extrapolated from even the smallest elements of an archaeological site, which in turn enables new and more precise arguments on big and decisive questions of “when, where and why?”. The courses are:

  • Contextual archaeology as a high definition tool – which aims at dissecting the complexity of contextual archaeology and suggest tools which enable us to make the most out of the stratigraphical records (23rd – 24th November 2016)
  • Isotopes in archaeology - aims to introduce the range of applications that isotopes can have in archaeological studies, as well as practical matters. The focus of the course will be the two main research areas: dietary studies and provenance studies (17th – 18th May 2017)
  • Constructing high definition chronologies – chronologies in context – an introduction to the newest research and methodology on dating archaeological material (23rd – 24th November 2017)
  • Networks in archaeology - The aim of the course is to teach the participants how to analyse networks and integrate theory and methodology in the analyses of networks. The course also aims to enable the student to handle the specific challenges related to network analyses (6th – 7th December 2017)

The courses aim to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, enable archaeologists working with all periods and geographic areas, as well as archaeoscientists and anyone who works with material related to archaeology to speak a common language and communicate in an effective manner. Furthermore we wish to equip researchers with ability to critically evaluate scientific methods and interpretations, as well as encourage archaeoscientists to translate the data in a manner that is meaningful to other disciplines.

The courses are aimed at PhD students from a range of disciplines, such as archaeology, geoscience, history and other related fields.

Each course will run over two consecutive days and primarily take place at UrbNet locations at Campus Moesgård, Aarhus University. The course will consist of lectures by leading researchers, student presentations, exercises, visits to relevant laboratories and workshops where it will be possible to work on issues related to the participants’ own research with input from lecturers and course participants.

High-Definition Chronologies, 23-24 November 2017

Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University: https://phdcourses.dk/Course/58314

Download programme


Estimating age is crucial for understanding the past. If we want to ascertain the chronological sequence of events and activities, the flow of objects, the emergence of networks, or the life cycles of settlements, we have to attribute dates to objects and contexts.

Absolute dating methods developed over the last decades are continually being improved are becoming increasingly more refined in their precision and accuracy. The application of these dating methods allows archaeologists and historians to develop precise narratives of the past, as well as to review and re-evaluate chronologies narratives afresh.

More recently, it has become more common to combine different dating methods and information from multiple contexts or objects, to advance increasingly more refined dating sequences and narratives. At the forefront of this has been the adoption of Bayesian statistics, which has proved to be an extremely powerful tool combining archaeological information (i.e. stratigraphic) with calibrated radiocarbon dating. Specifically, it uses archaeological data to improve the probability estimates of carbon-14 dates, creating ‘modelled’ dates with narrower date ranges that can often be a significant improvement on regular ‘calibrated’ dates.

The use of Bayesian methods has emphasised the importance and complementary nature of field archaeology and contextual information, without which such modelling would not be possible. Hence it is mandatory not only to focus on scientific methods as key to high definition chronology, but also to reflect upon and to further improve the accuracy of traditional archaeological dating methods like seriation and relative dating, and in general, the ability to understand archaeological contexts and stratigraphy.


The course will offer research-based teaching on the concepts and methods of high definition chronology in archaeology. The aims are:

  • To understand important scientific dating methods. The course will equip students with basic conceptual and analytical tools to assess the nature, significance and application of absolute dating techniques;
  • To understand traditional archaeological dating methods like seriation, sequential ordering of artefacts, and stratigraphy, including the importance of relative dating;
  • To understand and to assess the use of Bayesian statistics in the establishing of high definition chronologies;
  • To identify developments in dating methods, research issues and problems and research questions inherent to the application of the various dating methods, including potential limitations and constraints;
  • To appreciate the interdependency between scientific and traditional archaeological dating methods, emphasising the importance of accurate context recording and sampling (preselection) to construct high definition chronologies.

The course has a focus on key questions of contemporary archaeological, historical, and material science studies: the establishment of precise chronologies.


Module 1: Absolute methods of dating

The first module will offer an expert introduction and overview on the principles, limitations, challenges and use of absolute dating methods, which will include radiocarbon dating, optical stimulated luminescence, dendrochronology and tephrochronology. How are these methods used to determine the age of contexts and objects? What are their strengths and limitations? Which method(s) are appropriate?

Module 2: Traditional archaeological dating

The second module will cover in detail the complexities of traditional archaeological approaches to establishing chronology. This will include the contextual analysis of finds, such as pottery and coins, and the use of objects in seriation and typological dating. At many sites, it is possible to determine precise chronologies based on the contextual interpretation of finds. We will explore the relations between these issues and the similar problems encountered in relation to the contextual interpretation of objects dated by means of scientific methods. This module will also reflect on the importance of relative dating and how traditional archaeological approaches are entangled with scientific dating methods.

Module 3: Bayesian methods

This module will provide a detailed introduction to the concept of Bayesian methods in archaeological dating. It will focus on the interaction between radiocarbon dating and other sources of dating information, specifically how this can be combined using Bayesian statistics to improve calibrated radiocarbon dates and deliver more precise modelled dates. This module will illustrate the power of Bayesian methods through case-studies where it has been successfully implemented to revitalise and sometimes redefine chronologies.

Module 4: High definition chronologies and history

Using a selection of case-studies, this module will demonstrate how high definition chronologies are constructed and how they are used to further archaeological interpretation and narratives of particular sites and events. It will provide an overview of dating methods in practice, focusing on the importance of creating, using and interpreting chronology.

Target group:

PhD level

Archaeologists, Historians, Geosciences




The format of the course will be a mixture of lectures, exercises and workshops. Attendees will be expected to participate actively and may be asked to deliver short presentations. Exercises will involve group discussion, Q and A sessions or quizzes, as well as short presentations. Students will be expected to deliver a short 2 page case study (written) prior the course commencing, which will then be presented to the group during the workshop sessions.




Course co-ordinators

Thomas Birch (t.birch@cas.au.dk)

Michael Blömer (michael.bloemer@cas.au.dk)


Teaching staff:

Heide Wrobel Nørgaard (AU, farkhw@cas.au.dk)

Mads Bakken Thastrup (MoMu/AU, mads.thastrup@cas.au.dk)

Jan-Pieter Buylaert (AU, janpieter.buylaert@geo.au.dk)

Aoife Daly (Copenhagen, dendro@dendro.dk)

Jesper Olsen (AU, jesper.olsen@phys.au.dk)


Dates and time:

23rd and 24th November 2017


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)

Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society

Moesgård Allé 20, 4230-232

8270 Højbjerg


Application / registration:

Please apply for a spot on the course via https://auws.au.dk/highdefinitionchronologiesE2017 no later than16th November 2017.

Urban Religion, 22 May 2017


The urban can be seen as the product of specific economic and social developments in the aftermath of the Neolithic revolution, embedded in cultural schemes of interpretation comprising religious ones. For the individual actor, it presents an enormously complex environment of constraints and affordances. Previous sacralisations and contemporary religious practices are part of that, reaching beyond the situation into the transcendental or at least “vertical”, thus implementing far or even “global” horizons into the complexities of the local. Thus, religious actions, communications and identities offer tools to carve out social spaces and to make or at least modify urban space. Neither is religion specifically urban nor the city specifically religious, but historically, in many periods and cultures, the shape and development (including growth as much as decline) of cities – and even more the different urban spaces created by individuals and different social groups within such built environments – and the shape and development of religious practices and ideas have significantly influenced each other.

The role of religion in creating spatial, temporal and social order in cities has been an important topic in research on ceremonial centres and cities of Meso- and South America to Near Eastern and ancient Mediterranean, but also on Chinese, Indian and medieval European cities. A growing number of inhabitants and the increased density of interaction seem to have prompted (and enabled) processes of institutionalisation and the formulation of norms. Referring to non-human agents beyond the human agents in a situation contributed to organising economic exchange and redistribution. Furthermore, it has been functional in defining property rights as well as rights of political participation. Vice versa, citizenship could regulate access to gods; for example, “synagogue” and “ekklesia” refer first of all to voting assemblies. Historical research has reconstructed such functions for many instances and recent sociological research, above all research on migration, has consequently enquired into processes of inclusion and exclusion, tolerance and competition caused or experienced by immigrating minorities proffering different or identical religious identities.

Rarely and never comparatively, however, has the interrelationship of city and religion been investigated with a view to other social differences of gender and age, social position and literacy, rural and trans-regional relationships. How is religion used by different agents to appropriate (and that is to say, also craft) urban space? How does this specific religious agency shape and change urban space over time? And how does the urban context change different or even competing practices of religious communication and the ensuing forms of sacralisation?

These are questions that will be introduced within the framework of a doctoral course intended for students from Archaeology to Religious Studies. The one-day course will be conducted by Rubina Raja (professor of Classical Archaeology and centre leader of UrbNet, Aarhus University) and Jörg Rüpke (professor of comparative history of religion, Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt). The course will take the shape of introductory lectures followed by 20-minute presentations by the participating PhD students, followed by 20 minutes of discussion. Each PhD student will be asked to chair the papers of another student in order to stimulate synergy between the various fields. The course is interdisciplinary and the first of a string of PhD courses on the theme “Urban Religion”.


Rubina Raja (Aarhus University) and Jörg Rüpke (Universität Erfurt)


UrbNet, Aarhus University Campus Moesgaard
Moesgaard Allé 20
8270 Højbjerg


1,5 points




Isotopes in archaeology, 17-18 May 2017


Over the last few decades, isotope analyses have opened new, exciting avenues for understanding the past.  From reconstructing changing climate and people’s diet to tracing trading networks, new dimensions of the past are emerging from archaeological isotope studies. Such an impact is rooted in the wide range of materials storing isotopes and technological advances to extract and measure past records at atomic and molecular scale. Isotopes occur in different ratios and sources but they all provide important records on what people and animals ate in the past, types and conditions of crops, land uses, provenance and processing of materials and resources. From these records, we can infer information on past environmental and climatic conditions, subsistence strategies, cultural practices, and choices. This research-led course will provide an introduction to the applications of isotope analyses in archaeology and a forum to discuss and reflect on how isotope studies are transforming approaches to the past.


Federica Sulas and Rubina Raja (Aarhus University)


UrbNet, Aarhus University Campus Moesgaard
Moesgaard Allé 20
8270 Højbjerg


3 points



Contextual archaeology as a high-definition tool, 23-24 November 2016

Course 1: Contextual archaeology as a high definition tool (23rd and 24th November 2016) 3 ECTS

Introduction and aim

Cultural layers, their depositional process and stratigraphy is one of the oldest interpretative tools in archaeology and part of the firm empirical basis on which theories and further research is based – also within other fields of research, such as history and anthropology. Understanding archaeology through a contextual approach to cultural layers has two main purposes:

  • To understand cultural layers as much more than a container for finds and stratigraphy as more than a tool for relative dating or as a background within which the more important data are set. In the course we seek to demonstrate that cultural layers are a vast archive of knowledge of past events that has to be scrutinized on its own merit in order to truly unlock the potential that it holds.
  • To understand the cultural and geological processes that result in the creation of the archaeological record. This is crucial to everyone that works with archeological source material or results produced by others working with archaeological source material. This course aims to encourage doctoral students in archaeology and related subjects like history or archaeoscience, to reflect on the implications that a complex stratigraphy has and discuss the potential of implementing contextual and stratigraphical considerations in their own work, equipped with knowledge about the latest progress in the different fields of use.



Module 1: Contextual archaeology in theory

The first module will focus on the theory and ideas behind the way we view stratigraphy of cultural layers: seen as the biography of the site, as remains of actions, as an archive of knowledge of the past -much more than containers for finds and dating tools. Terms and theoretical tools related to stratigraphy, typical problems related to stratigraphy such as representability, re-deposition etc. will be discussed. Lecturer: Stefan Larsson (Arkeologerna, Statens Historiska Museum) and Rubina Raja (Centre for Urban Network Evolutions and Classical Art and Archaeology, Aarhus University).

Module 2: Practical applications to contextual archaeology

This module will deal with practical methods and central issues when managing complex stratigraphy in different contexts. To be discussed are questions related to single context and profile documentation (three dimensions vs. two dimensions) – what questions can be asked when different methods are used? How does the documentation method influence the questions that the material can be used to answer? Focus will also be put on methods used in organizing/documenting/visualizing stratigraphy (matrix, single context documentation, land use diagrams, sections, horizontal stratigraphy etc.) Lastly, but not least, the module will present tools and cases showing how stratigraphy can be used in connection with scientific sampling, i.e. how to relate stratigraphical information to typological and scientific dating information.

Since the conditions generally are very different in a northern European context vs. the Mediterranean, and in rescue excavations vs. research excavations, there will be two lectures on this theme, covering the whole range of challenges deriving from different conditions of work. This will give great potential in discussing the central elements and strategies related to contextual archaeology. Lecturers: Heike Møller (School for Culture and Society/Centre for Urban Networks Evolutions, Aarhus University), Georg Kalaitzoglou (Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften, Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Christina Rosén (Arkeologerna, Statens Historiska Museum) and Stefan Larsson (Arkeologerna, Statens Historiska Museum).

Module 3: Scientific relations to contextual archaeology

The module takes hold of the geological use of the term stratigraphy, and will introduce soil formation processes of interest for archaeology, and give insight in how to interpret different scenarios with geological knowledge. Lecturers: Søren Munch Kristiansen (Institute for Geoscience/Centre for Urban Networks Evolutions, Aarhus University) and Mads Kähler Holst (School for Culture and Society, Prehistoric Archaeology, Aarhus University).

Another focus will be on depositional processes/tafonomy, and how to recognize primary, secondary and redeposited material from a geological point of view. This aims to lead to an insight into what has an impact on stratigraphy – both in the past and in the present. Lecturer: Barbora Wouters (School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen).

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the participants should be able to:

-describe key principles and concepts regarding the contextual approach and stratigraphy as a concept

-implement stratigraphical observations in their own work, with emphasis in using stratigraphy as a high definition tool together with different types of scientific sampling.

-reflect on, analyze, and critically discuss interpretations based on stratigraphical observations



The course will be conducted with a mixture of lectures, student presentations, exercises and a workshop where active participation will be expected. Each of the five sub themes will start with a lecture and be followed by student presentations related to the sub theme and by group exercises related to the lecture and presentations. The language of the course is English.

Case studies and student presentations

Each participant is required to submit a case study or abstract of 1-2 pages forehand, which deals with one or more of the five subthemes of the course, and to give a 15-20 minutes presentation of the case either on the first or the second day. The cases can relate to an own project, previous experiences, or a fictional case produced by the participant.


The exercises will consist of group discussions related to the lecture and the student presentations.


On the second day there will be a workshop where we go back to the cases from the five sub themes. Five different cases will be discussed in groups of four. Each group will choose a case that will be passed on to the next group. This group will then present a solution or debate the case/problem in plenum, based on what was learned from the lectures.  

Preliminary programme (23rd and 24th November)

Day 1:


10.00 Welcome and coffee

10.15-11.00 Lecture (Rubina Raja, School for Culture and Society/ Centre for Urban Networks Evolutions, Aarhus University) - Introductory lecture addressing the complexity and potential of contextual archaeology

Contextual archaeology in theory

11.00-11.45 Lecture (Stefan Larsson) – Theoretical approaches to the concept of stratigraphy within archaeology

11.45-12.30 Student presentations

12.30-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.45 Group exercises and in plenum discussions

Practical applications to contextual archaeology

13.45-14.30 Lecture (Christina Rosén and Stefan Larsson) – Managing complex stratigraphy in Scandinavian urban contexts

14.30-14.45 Coffee/Tea break

14.45-15.30 Lecture (Heike Møller and Georg Kalaitzoglou) – Managing complex stratigraphy in Mediterranean/Near Eastern contexts

15.30-16.45 Student presentations

16.45-17.00 break

17.00-18.15 Group exercises and in plenum discussions

Day 2:

Scientific relation to contextual archaeology

9.00-9.45 Lecture (Søren Munch Kristiansen and Mads Holst) – Geology and soil formation processes

9.45-10.30 Lecture (Barbora Wouters) – Micromorphology and tafonomy

10.30-10.45 Coffee/Tea break

10.45-12.00 Student presentations

12.00-12.30 Lunch

12.30-13.45 Group exercises and in plenum discussions

13.45-15.00 Workshop

15.00-15.15 Final discussion – sum up.

ECTS credits and successful completion requirements

3 ECTS credits

PhD students are required to submit a case study (1-2 pages) stating a case that exemplifies challenges related to stratigraphy, to make a presentation of the case study at the course and participate actively in class discussions and activities.


The course will be held at:

Centre for Urban Network Evolutions

Campus Moesgård

Aarhus University

Course organiser:

Rubina Raja, rubina.raja@cas.au.dk

Application / registration:

Please apply via https://auws.au.dk/contextualarchaeologyE2016 no later than 23 October 2016.

For questions on the application procedure, please contact Marianne Hoffmeister, mho@au.dk