Archaeology covers a huge range of topics, spanning the evolution of humans through the development of farming, ancient civilisations and world empires, as well as the role of material culture in human life and of heritage in modern societies. Students can follow several streams – Archaeology (covering all world cultures), Biological Anthropology, Egyptology and Assyriology.
With the Division of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge is one of the largest centres of archaeological research in Britain, and we have recently been awarded top place in the Good University Guide for Archaeology in the UK. Archaeology students at Cambridge benefit from direct hands-on access to world-class collections in Cambridge’s many museums, libraries and research centres. From 2017 onwards, Cambridge is launching an exciting new undergraduate degree programme in single honours Archaeology (for more information on the course, please click here).
· What is the new Archaeology Tripos? From October 2017, Archaeology will no longer be taught as part of HSPS; it will be taught in a free-standing new Archaeology Tripos.
· What subject areas does it cover? The Archaeology Tripos includes Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, and the two Ancient Near Eastern subjects (Assyriology and Egyptology).
· How does the Archaeology Tripos relate to HSPS? The Archaeology Tripos is a separate Tripos from HSPS; students wishing to study Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Assyriology or Egyptology should apply to the Archaeology Tripos, as these subjects will no longer be taught within HSPS. However, Archaeology students in all three years will be allowed to borrow some HSPS papers, and HSPS students in all three years will be allowed to borrow some Archaeology papers (Arc1, Arc2 and Arc3 in Part I; Part II courses vary slightly by track within HSPS so check HSPS regulations). Moreover, the course is designed to allow students to change triposes from HSPS to Archaeology or vice versa between Part I and Part IIA if they wish.
· When does it start? The first intake of students will be in October 2017. This means that students who want to study these subject and are applying for admission in the October 2016 admissions round will apply for admission to the Archaeology Tripos, not for HSPS.
· What colleges will offer it? All undergraduate colleges will offer the Archaeology Tripos.
· What subjects will potential students have to have? The Archaeology Tripos covers a broad range of topics, almost none of which are commonly taught in school. Potential students can apply with almost any combination of subjects in the arts, sciences and social sciences; there are no specific requirements.
· What is the standard admissions offer? A*AA at A-level, or equivalent.
· What admissions assessment will students have to take? Students applying to the Archaeology Tripos will have to sit a one-hour written assessment on the day of their interview; this will involve reading a short passage and answering questions on it. The passage and questions will be chosen to allow students interested in all the subjects covered by the tripos to do well.
· How should applicants prepare for the assessment? There is no specific preparation needed; it is simply aimed at giving us an idea of students’ ability to read and understand a text and to write analytically, skills they will already be learning in school.
· What is the structure of the course? The course is designed so that students progress from a general introduction to specialised subjects and independent research; it also includes separate tracks for the different subjects within it. The structure of the course is laid out in the chart below.
· What borrowed papers can students take? A range of papers can be borrowed from HSPS and Classics; see “structure of the course”, below.
· How is the course assessed? Like most Cambridge courses, examinations are important, but most modules also involve assessed work of varying forms such as essays, lab reports, etc.
· What careers can I pursue with a degree in Archaeology (or Biological Anthropology, Assyriology or Egyptology)? Our graduates are more or less evenly divided among those going on to further study (in archaeology or other subjects, at Cambridge or elsewhere) and those going on to work at jobs requiring general academic skills. They have gone on to an extremely wide range of jobs in business, non-profits and the government; as the degree integrates a wide range of skills from the humanities to hard science, particularly writing and data analysis, it provides excellent general training.
· What should I read before I come to Cambridge? We will develop general reading lists for interested future students and post them on the Archaeology Division website.
· What fieldwork is involved? Students following the Archaeology-related tracks do a two-week training dig in or around Cambridge at the start of Easter Term of their first year. They then do four weeks’ excavation on a research project of their choice between their second and third years. There is also a week-long staff-led fieldtrip to an archaeological destination somewhere in Europe in the Easter break of their second year. Biological Anthropology students have no fieldwork requirements; for Assyriology, Egyptology and joint tracks, it varies. For specific fieldwork requirements for the various tracks, see chart below.
· Does it involve any extra costs for students? Generally not; most or all fieldwork costs are covered by a combination of departmental funding and college vacation study grants Occasionally if students wish to do their four-week individually arranged fieldwork somewhere particularly expensive to get to (generally outside Europe) they may need to help fund it themselves.
· Where can I find out more? For more information, go to the Cambridge Admissions online prospectus, and to the Archaeology Division’s webpage. They are also very welcome to contact Archaeology directly with any questions.
Archaeology at Downing College
Downing College features a beautiful environment of classical buildings and open spaces, within a very short walk of the Division of Archaeology, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Haddon Library. Downing has a strong history of scholarship in Archaeology. A former curator at the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum in Cambridge, Patrick Carter was Director of Studies in Archaeology and a Fellow of Downing College. He conducted important excavations of stone age sites in Southern Africa, and conducted pioneering research in Lesotho. More recently, Archaeology undergraduate students from Downing College have participated in fieldwork in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America, and many have gone on to further work or study in the field. Today archaeologists at Downing College represent a small and friendly community of undergraduate and graduate students. Dr Jay Stock, the Director of Studies in Archaeology is a bioarchaeologist and human palaeontologist who has worked to understand early human adaptations in Southern and Eastern Africa, South and Central Asia and the Mediterranean. He teaches in bioarchaeology, Palaeolithic archaeology and human adaptation to cultural change.
Archaeology spans a very broad subject area, and the course allows study of topics ranging across the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences. Students with almost any combination of subjects can apply; there are no specific required or recommended courses. We welcome applications from students studying humanistic fields such as History, English, Classics, and ancient languages, social sciences such as Geography, Sociology, Psychology, or Anthropology, and sciences such as Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Applicants for Egyptology and Assyriology are strongly encouraged to study an ancient or modern language.
The application process
Candidates should normally expect two interviews. Applicants are not expected to have any standard background in archaeology, as the field is highly varied, there are many relevant backgrounds and the subject is often not taught in schools; however, they should be prepared to discuss their relevant interests and potential directions they may wish to follow. All applicants who are invited to interivew will take a written assessment in College, based on the reading of material that we will supply. This hour-long assessment is designed to assess the ability to interpret texts and to write. Again, no special preparation or prior knowledge is required. Further information about the assessment can be found here on the Cambridge Undergraduate Study webpages.
Typical conditional offers
Our typical conditional offer for Archaeology is A*AA at A level. IB offers are usually for a total of 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level.