Later Prehistory

Module code: AR1553

  • Why did people first start living in crowded cities? 
  • How can exchanging gifts be a crucial social and political practice?
  • How and why do state societies emerge?
  • How is power created and maintained?

This module explores turning points from the rise of metallurgy – the production of copper, bronze and iron objects – to the dawn of written history, introducing challenging questions about people, power, places and things. Making metals changed the way people and things moved across vast distances and created new kinds of connections. With new technologies came new forms of art, new skills, new ways of life, and new forms of self-expression. Alongside these changes, the first complex state societies and bustling cities emerge in the archaeological record. ‘Later prehistory’ means different time periods on different places. You will thus review the Bronze and Iron Ages in Europe and Britain; early states in Mesopotamia (now Iraq), the Indus (modern Pakistan and north-western India), China, and Egypt; along with the development of complex societies in the Americas and south-east Asia.

Topics covered

  • The emergence of urbanism
  • Metal technology and new forms of identities
  • Early writing technologies
  • The complexity of ‘power’