Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will have a general understanding of the information potential provided by monuments of the past and many other forms of material culture. They will be familiar with some key archaeological contexts regarding transmission of the social and cultural memory of groups and communities, in different time frames. By the end of the course students will possess the knowledge and appropriate theoretical and methodological tools to identify and deal with theoretical contexts rich in significance, whether monuments or material culture in general.

Course contents

The course starts with introductions into the concept of monumentality and memory in archaeology. The topics will be addressed and discussed into detail mainly using examples from Pharaonic Egypt (3000 B.C.E – 300 B.C.E.), a culture which is due to its long duration and the long-lasting traditions on the one hand, and the presence of a large monumental record, especially well suited as a case study. While the major focus will be laid upon the emic perspective, presenting and interpreting processes within the Egyptian culture, the course will include also the etic perspective from antiquity until today. It will be shown how ancient monumentality and the cultural memory are still being used and how they affected and still affect archaeology.

Excurses by Prof Maurizio Cattani and Davide Domenici will add additional perspectives from pre-/protohistoric Europe and Mayan Central America which can be compared with Pharonic Egypt afterwards.


Topics covered include:

  • Monumentality – What does it mean and why does it matter?
  • Introduction to the concept of memory within archaeology
  • Monuments of Pharaonic Egypt: Introduction
  • What makes a monument a monument in Pharaonic Egypt? The concept of the monumental discourse
  • Cities and residences as expressions of monumentality
  • The heydays of monumentalism: The pyramids of the Old Kingdom and the time of Ramesses II.
  • Damnatio Memoriae: the Amarna Period and its reception
  • The structure of the Ancient Egyptian history: How monumental records shaped the later idea of Ancient Egypt.
  • Reuse and usurpation.
  • Archaism in Ancient Egypt
  • Monumentality and Memory in the Mayan Culture (taught by Davide Domenici).
  • The construction of memory and identities in the European prehistory: monuments and megalithism. (taught by Maurizio Cattani).
  • The memory and monuments of Ancient Egypt from Roman times until the decipherment of the hieroglyphs in 1822: What remained without the knowledge of the Ancient Egyptian language?
  • The memory and monuments of Ancient Egypt today.


A. Brysbaert, V. Klinkenberg, A. Guitérrez-Garcia, I. Vikatou (eds.), Constructing monuments, perceiving monumentality & the economics of building: theoretical and methodological approaches to the built environment, Leiden, 2018 (available under: https://www.sidestone.com/books/ constructing-monuments [https://www.sidestone.com/books/%20constructing-monuments] ).

J. Assmann, The mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the time of the Pharaohs, New York, 1996.

F. Buccellati, S. Hageneuer, S. van der Heyden, F. Levenson (eds.), Size Matters – Understanding Monumentality Across Ancient Civilizations, transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2019 (available under: https://www.academia.edu/39976546/ Size_Matters_Understanding_Monumentality _Across_Ancient_Civilizations [https://www.academia.edu/39976546/%20Size_Matters_Understanding_Monumentality%20_Across_Ancient_Civilizations] ).

J. F. Osbourne (ed.), Approaching monumentality in archaeology: IEMA proceedings, volume 3. Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology distinguished monograph series. Albany, NY, 2014.

Teaching methods

One part of the lesson will always be conducted as a frontal lecture by the lecturer, using PowerPoint-presentations. From the fourth session onwards, students are asked to introduce in small groups of two or three the topic of the session with a five to maximum ten-minute impulse presentation, introducing the topic based on the reading given. Any session will end with a discussion of the topics.

Students are strongly recommended to actively take part in the discussions as participation will add to the assessment.

Assessment methods

The evaluation of the individual students’ grades will be based on three elements. The first is the active participation in the discussions (10%). The second is part is formed by the small group presentations during the sessions 4-14 (20%). The most important element though will be a written test at the end of the module which can be replaced by an oral exam via the internet in the case of COVID-19-related restrictions which prevent a physical presence. The written test will not exceed 45 minutes and contain a mixture of multiple-choice questions and open questions.

Grading related to the student's ability in discussing with an appropriate language the topics tackled in the literature provided and discussed in the class, as well as his/her skills in making connections between different texts in order to build an argument. Proper language and the ability to critically speak about the course’s content will lead to a good/excellent final grade. Acceptable language and the ability to resume the books' content will lead to a sufficient/fair grade. Insufficient linguistic proficiency and fragmentary knowledge of the content of the readings or in case of the final exam all topics discussed during the course will lead to a failure in passing the exam.

Office hours

See the website of Henning Franzmeier