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Mesopotamian Archaeology

Mesopotamian Archaeology

Please see also the MPhil in Assyriology for additional courses



Dr Augusta McMahon


The Course

This MPhil course covers the archaeology of the prehistoric and historical periods of Mesopotamia, from c 6000 BC to the Persian Period. The course is divided chronologically, with each half taught in alternate years:

  • Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Prehistory and early states [taught in 2018–19]
  • Archaeology of Mesopotamia: Territorial states through empires [taught in 2019–20]


The Themes

Themes addressed include:

  • origins and development of urbanism, complex societies and empires
  • development of religious institutions and economic bureaucracies
  • trade, diplomatic exchange and the creation of value
  • funerary rituals
  • the impact of climate change on settlement
  • elaboration of technology and hybridization in art.

This course option is appropriate for students with some background in Mesopotamian archaeology and for students new to the subject. Students wishing to combine study of the ancient languages with the archaeology and culture of Mesopotamia should apply for the MPhil in Assyriology.


The Structure

The structure of this MPhil follows the structure of the MPhil in Archaeology. For their three modules, students take:

  • Core Archaeology (G02), a seminar-based module shared with most other MPhil in Archaeology students, which reviews fundamental concepts in archaeological theory and practice and provides a shared basis for approaching archaeology. This module is assessed through an unseen examination (67%) and an essay of not more than 3000 words length (33%).
  • Archaeology of Mesopotamia (G24 OR G25), this module includes a survey of Mesopotamian archaeology combining diachronic and thematic overviews. The survey is taught on an alternating 2-year cycle which comprises: a) prehistory and early states [taught in 2018-2019] and b) territorial states through empires [taught in 2019-2020]. This module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars and assessed through an unseen examination (67%) and an essay of not more than 3000 words length (33%).
  • Any additional module(s) from among the other modules taught within the Department of Archaeology, subject to the instructor's consent and the approval of the MPhil in Archaeology co-ordinator. This allows the student to take a wide range of modules, including methodological courses in archaeological techniques and analyses, other area or period based courses, and thematic courses in museums and heritage: see here for complete list of modules offered in the MPhil in Archaeology.

In addition, students take the Research Skills module and write a 15,000 word dissertation on a topic in Mesopotamian Archaeology. The dissertation is an independent in-depth research project; it may be based on fieldwork or museum collections, or on analysis of existing literature.


For further information, contact Dr Augusta McMahon, co-ordinator for this option, or Prof Marie Louise Sorensen, overall MPhil co-ordinator for the Department of Archaeology.