Archaeology: Research Master, 2018-2019


A Research Master is an advanced two-year postgraduate programme with an even higher research component than the Master’s programme, and provides excellent scope for individual student initiative.

The Research Master programme in Archaeology focuses on the research areas that are strongly represented in Leiden. The heart of the programme is organised around the excellent research with which Leiden has made a name for itself internationally.

RMA-students share several modular courses with MA-students. However, there will be some differentiation in the learning objectives and assignments between MA and RMA. Depending on the courses, options for RMA-specific assignments could include one or a combination of the following:

  • a different focus in the essay and/or presentation assignment, for example: formulating new avenues for innovative future research for the theme selected, and/or
  • presenting a theoretical or methodological “meta” approach to the literature, e.g. in order to critically assess the intellectual position taken by the author(s), and/or
  • placing the research topic into a broader international context, making interregional comparisons in research outcomes and/or methodology; and/or
  • formulating a text on a specialist archaeological topic that is specifically aimed at a non-specialist audience;
  • organising, leading and reviewing a session discussion (either within the class environment or at a separate event);
  • attending and reviewing an international conference or workshop that is related to the course theme;
  • contributing to a publication by the research track that is related to the course theme;
  • presenting a poster or paper that is related to the course theme at an international conference or workshop.

Research Master tracks

There are 7 different tracks (see the tabs above), centred on the research projects that reflect the broad spectrum of research undertaken within the department:

Human Origins (RMA)
Prehistoric Farming Communities in Europe (RMA)
Town and Country in the Mediterranean Region and the Near East (RMA)
Religion and Society in Native American Cultures (RMA)
Archaeological Heritage in a Globalising World (RMA)
The Transformation of the Roman World (RMA)
Bioarchaeology (RMSc)

Human Origins

Human Origins
The Human Origins group studies the archaeology of Prehistoric hunter-gatherers, from the earliest stone tools in East Africa, to the end of the last ice age.

We focus on Neanderthal behaviour, with the aim of introducing our students to research questions, methods of analysis and theoretical perspectives in Palaeolithic archaeology. Additionally, we will give you the opportunity to examine data and theory from other disciplines such as ethnography, palaeoanthropology and behavioural ecology.

The study of the origin and development of the human niche is interdisciplinary by nature, and you will find that Leiden University accommodates prominent representatives from some of these disciplines.

Our key fieldwork site is currently Les Cottés (France), which has an excellent record of the archaeology of both the last Neanderthals and the earliest Modern humans. As a Human Origins student, you are expected to participate in the department’s fieldwork. Very recently we have begun small-scale fieldwork at the Homo erectus site Trinil, Java, more than a century after Eugene Dubois uncovered his famous Pithecanthropus fossils there.
Finally, a strong focus of our research as well of teaching is the deep history of human fire use – we are currently micro-excavating a 25,000 years old fire place in our lab, an exciting venue for student thesis work.

Track leader:
Prof. dr. J.W.M. (Wil) Roebroeks

Prof. dr. M.A. (Marie) Soressi
Dr. K. (Katharine) MacDonald
Prof. dr. J.A. (Jean-Jacques) Hublin


Prehistoric Farming Communities in Europe
Prehistoric Farming Communities focuses on the later Prehistory (Late Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age) in western Europe, especially on communities bordering the North Sea (Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Great Britain and Ireland).
Three researchers work together and bring in their own specific interests. Prof. Fokkens works on Beaker Cultures and settlements of the Bronze and Iron Ages, prof. Sørensen (Cambridge and Leiden) brings in her work on cultural identity, and dr. Fontijn specialises in burial ritual and (selective) deposition.

Our challenge is to bring these ideas together to develop a detailed but coherent view of past communities. Theory is important, but we always work with data and try to approach these issues from different angles. This will be achieved by means of research seminars, written assignments, presentations, participation in field schools and ongoing research projects.
Students are expected to think ‘outside the box’. You will be challenged to develop your own ideas, and never to blindly follow the well-trodden path (or the professor).

The themes that we address are:

Formation and long-term history of the Prehistoric cultural landscape concerning both economic and profoundly ritual aspects;
Social development of Prehistoric Europe: Why did history take the course it did? Why did truly complex societies never emerge in this part of the world?
Connected worlds: From the Neolithic onwards, parts of Europe became highly connected worlds, in which goods, ideas, social and ritual values were shared to a large extent. How was this possible?

Track leader:
Prof. dr. H. (Harry) Fokkens

Prof. dr. D.R. (David) Fontijn
Prof. dr. M.L. (Marie) Sorensen
Dr. M.H.G. (Maikel) Kuijpers
Dr. C. (Catalin) Popa
Prof. dr. J.W.M. (Wil) Roebroeks

Classical/Near East

Town and Country in the Mediterranean Region and the Near East
Town and Country is directed by professors Akkermans and Versluys. The programme entails the close cooperation between staff members in the Classical-Mediterranean Archaeology department and the Near Eastern Archaeology department.

Specialist courses include topics on both city life and rural settlement in the Mediterranean region and the Near East through the ages. When studying art or material culture, there is an emphasis on issues such as cultural identity, ethnicity and power relations. Aspects of environmental archaeology are regularly featured, as well as the social and economic foundations of society in the past in the many and highly diverse regions under consideration.

The courses directly relate to current staff and PhD research projects, and are based upon fieldwork and related studies in many parts of the Mediterranean region and the Near East. The cutting-edge research programmes range from the investigation of ancient settlement systems to imperial developments and the role of material culture in antiquity.

You are encouraged to spend part of your programme at other institutions or on field projects run by teams outside Leiden, to enrich your experience of different research cultures, but the Classical-Mediterranean and Near Eastern group also offers opportunities to become involved with Leiden field and museum projects which include several regional survey and excavation programmes and training schools abroad.

Track leaders:
Prof. dr. P.M.M.G. (Peter) Akkermans
Prof. dr. M.J. (Miguel John) Versluys

Prof. dr. J.A.C. (Joanita) Vroom
Dr. B.S. (Bleda) Düring
Dr. T.C.A. (Tymon) de Haas


Religion and Society in Native American Cultures
This programme is suited for students interested in combining disciplines while studying the past in connection to the present.
In this RMA track, archaeology, anthropology, ethnohistory, sciences, history, linguistics, and landscape come together in transdiciplinary synergies. You will gain a broad knowledge of and deep insight into Native American sociocultural history, focusing on the relationships between religious worldviews and social agency.

Your research master’s thesis is to be based on original investigation. This may include archaeological and/or anthropological fieldwork, as well as studies of archives and other primary sources. You will have the opportunity to participate in Leiden field schools related to long-term research projects, such as excavations in the Caribbean and central America (including studies of material culture and physical anthropology) or ethnohistorical and cultural-historical research in Mesoamerica and Venezuela.
The RMA-thesis is conceived as the basis for potential later PhD-research.

Track leader:
Prof. dr. C.L. (Corinne) Hofman

Dr. A.T. (Andrzej) Antczak
Dr. L.S. (Lewis) Borck
Dr. G.D.J. (Genner) Llanes Ortiz
Dr. M. (Mariana) de Campos Françozo
Dr. I.R. (Ian) Simpson


Archaeological Heritage in a Globalising World
Management of archaeological heritage is increasingly influenced by global trends, such as international politics, cultural tourism, the use of social media in the network society, international collaboration in education and research, and the revitalisation of local traditions and regional identities.
Archaeological Heritage in a Globalising World provides an in-depth introduction to the various aspects of recent developments. In this programme, we aim to provide you with practical tools to translate academic research and social knowledge into strategies for heritage management. The overarching research theme is: ‘Heritage and the Quality of Life’. We pay special attention to topics such as cultural landscape, intercultural dynamics or the heritage and rights of indigenous peoples.

Additionally, you have the opportunity to pursue individual initiatives. In this specialisation, you will particularly benefit from our close association with the Center for Global Heritage and Development (CGHD), an interdisciplinary cooperation between three high-ranking universities: Leiden University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Delft Technical University. The association with the CGHD allows for a partnership between archaeology, social sciences, humanities and technical and natural sciences.

Track leader:
Prof. dr. J.C.A. (Jan) Kolen

Dr. M.R. (Martijn) Manders
Dr. M.H. (Monique) van den Dries
Dr. G.D.J. (Genner) Llanes Ortiz
Dr. I.R. (Ian) Simpson
Dr. M. (Mariana) de Campos Françozo


The Transformation of the Roman World
As a student, you will participate in the current research projects of the Faculty of Archaeology that focus on the Merovingian and Carolingian world in North-Western Europe, the Byzantine Period in the Mediterranean and the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods in (southern) Jordan.

You will have the opportunity to work in field schools relating to research projects, while excursions to relevant sites and museums are also part of the program. This specialisation is suited for students who are interested in interdisciplinary research, combining archaeology with disciplines such as history, anthropology, art history, and natural sciences.

The general focus of our research and teaching is ‘economics’. We analyse the economic development of North-Western Europe in Merovingian and Carolingian times, exchange networks in the Mediterranean on the basis of production and distribution of pottery, and agrarian innovation and water management in Jordan. Our expertise includes the study of burial rites, the fate of Roman towns in the early Middle Ages, and the study of Christian centres.

Track leader:
Prof. dr. F.C.W.J. (Frans) Theuws

Prof. dr. J.A.C. (Joanita) Vroom
Dr. ir. M.J. (Mark) Driessen


All of the four research disciplines of the Bioarchaeology research master’s specialisation cover an extensive geographical area and time range. As a student you are free to pursue your own interests within these disciplines:

The Archaeobotany research group investigates, for example, changes in vegetation and environment during the past 2.6 million years, as well as the taphonomy of plant macrofossils in lacustrine and fluvial depositional settings.

The Archaeo/Palaeozoology research group focuses on Eurasia and covers the period from the Early Pleistocene to the Holocene. Biostratigraphical studies, palaeo-ecological studies, as well as taphonomical and subsistence studies are executed on Pleistocene/Palaeolithic material whereas mainly palaeo-economical studies are carried out Holocene fauna complexes.

The Human Osteoarchaeology research group focuses on the analysis and interpretations of human remains from all over the globe.

The Isotope Archaeology research group works on the analysis and interpretation of stable isotopes of human and faunal remains from archaeological contexts. It also focuses on dating projects, involving radiocarbon dating as well as other dating methods.

Track leader:
Dr. M.H. (Mike) Field

Dr. L. (Laura) Llorente Rodriguez
Dr. S.A. (Sarah) Schrader
Dr. R. (Rachel) Schats
Dr. M.L.P. (Menno) Hoogland
Prof. dr. J.A. (Jean-Jacques) Hublin