31 October 2014
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Archaeology degree

Archaeology is all about discovery and contact with the past. It is a subject that studies cultural change through time by finding and piecing together artefacts in order to build a picture of the past. Courses have a strong focus on practical training, both in the field and lab, all of which is underpinned by solid methodologies and linked to current research.

Programmes combine academic study and fieldwork that cover key areas such as landscape surveying, remote sensing, excavation and recording. You will learn about specific periods of civilization, theories and methods through the study of their material remains, landscapes and documentary records. It is a subject area that requires teamwork as it deals with a vast and complicated range of material evidence, artefacts, monuments and buildings. More generally, on this degree you will learn a range of transferable skills, as well as analytical and presentational ones that are valuable and useful in a variety of careers in the humanities.

In the UK courses focus mostly on British archaeology, that’s not to say that they will not cover other areas, but the key sector of interest will be the United Kingdom. Having said that many programmes are flexible and undergraduates are given plenty of room and opportunity to specialise in particular aspects of archaeology.
On a archaeology degree you will get to study human society primarily through the recovery and analysis of cultural and environmental data.

Archaeology degree course overview

Throughout a archaeology degree students will be taught through lectures, seminars and a range of exciting and relevant fieldwork expeditions. Universities will have dedicated archaeology and bone labs for the analysis of skeletal remains, as well as specialist geophysical and excavation equipment.

Fieldwork is central to an archaeological degree, and students are involved in practical work right from the start, using equipment both in the field and the lab. Undergraduates spending a considerable time on excavations, participating in research projects conducted on regional, national and international levels. With trips to the most iconic archaeological landscapes, where they will be involved in digs and excavations, giving them the opportunity to physically practise things they have learnt about in theory. A typical excavation will result in a lot of material (pottery, flints etc) being dug up, recovered and brought back. All of this will need to be processed, cleaned, labelled and bagged up, to be analysed later on. Courses are designed to guide you through the maze of evidence that you find, and arrive at a conclusion and understanding of the past.

Modules are typically taught through a combination of lectures, small-group seminars, student presentations, individual tutorials, site visits, and practical work in the field and laboratories.

Classes tend to be fairly small in size when compared to other subject areas, which is good for students as it means they will have lots of direct contact with the teaching staff. Assessment is usually by a combination of coursework essays, presentations, practical projects, fieldwork, exams, and the research dissertation.

Typical course modules and areas of study on a Archaeology Degree 

  • Introduction to Archaeological Principles and Techniques
  • Introduction to Prehistory
  • Religious and ritual practice
  • Marine archaeology
  • Forensic science
  • Anthropology
  • Museums and collections
  • Roman Britain
  • From Rome to the Reformation
  • Introduction to Historic Archaeology
  • Bones, Bodies and Burials
  • Analysing Museum Displays
  • Prehistoric Europe
  • Rome's Mediterranean Empire
  • Early Medieval Europe

Students will learn about

  • The development and application of dating techniques
  • Landscape and settlement studies
  • Artefact analysis
  • The study of human and animal remains
  • Earth, Environment & Society
  • Applications of Archaeological Science
  • Post-Excavation Studies
  • Societies of Prehistoric Europe
  • Archaeological Management
  • Ancient People & Places
  • Field work techniques

Students will learn how to

  • Investigate and report
  • Form structured arguments
  • Use a range of specialist IT software packages
  • Work methodically and accurately


Related degrees
Anthropology degree
Geography degree
History degree courses

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