ATS2283 - The archaeology of empires - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Centre for Ancient Cultures

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Hilary Gopnik


Dr Hilary Gopnik

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (On-campus)


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units.


Towards the beginning of the first millennium BCE the Assyrian state in upper Mesopotamia started to expand its borders. Many territorial states had done this before, but the military and economic ideology of conquest that motivated this expansion created a new kind of political entity -the empire- which was to set the stage for the political strategy of the next one thousand years. When the Assyrian empire finally collapsed, its territory was quickly taken by the Babylonians and Medes, who in turn were conquered by the Persian Empire, which, after 200 years of dominion over a territory stretching from the Mediterranean to the mountains of Afghanistan, itself fell to the army of Alexander the Great and his generals. In this unit we will examine how the material culture recovered by archaeology - from the palaces, battle accounts, and art of the elite to the houses, pottery, and ritual figurines of those they conquered - can tell us how these early empires extended their power to neighbouring communities and how these communities adapted to, and sometimes resisted, the encroaching empires that surrounded them. Cultures covered include Egypt, Ancient Judah-Israel, Assyria, Urartu, Babylon, Media, Persia and the Hellenistic empires.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will:

  1. know the cultures and historical periods of the Ancient Near East in the first millennium BCE;
  2. understand how to use archaeological evidence to study ancient empires;
  3. identify imperial tactics of control and the conquered regions' tactics of resistance;
  4. distinguish the effects of imperial expansion on past societies;
  5. critically appraise arguments about ancient empires through the use of archaeological and historical evidence.


Within semester assessment: 60% + Exam: 40%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

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This unit applies to the following area(s) of study