Course Structure

Lectures and Oxford’s world renowned tutorial system are complemented by object handling sessions in local museums (including the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum), practical sessions in the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art and field trips to local sites. At the end of their first year, students participate in at least four weeks of archaeological or anthropological fieldwork anywhere in the world. They are also invited to apply for internships in local museums, archives and collections.

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Students take four papers in the first year that together provide an introduction to the main techniques, methodologies and theoretical approaches which archaeologists and anthropologists use.  These papers are examined by four three-hour papers of three questions each in the final term of the first year of study.

Second and third year students study five more papers which investigate the relationship between the two disciplines, exposing their complementary nature and delving into specific case-studies, theories and methods. Students also choose three option papers to study. This structure offers a uniquely powerful and flexible course that avoids excessive specialisation while emphasising student choice. These core and option papers are examined in the final term of the third year of study. The Gibbs Prize is awarded to the candidate whose performance in the Second Public Examination (Final Honour School) has been adjudged the best in the year.


Honour Moderations (year 1)

4 core papers:

Paper 1. Introduction to World Archaeology

Paper 2. Introduction to Anthropological Theory

Paper 3. Perspectives on Human Evolution

Paper 4. The Nature of Archaeological and Anthropological Enquiry

Laboratory practical sessions 

Four weeks of fieldwork


Final Honour School (years 2 & 3)

5 core papers:

Paper 1.  Social Analysis and Interpretation

Paper 2.  Cultural Representations, Beliefs and Practices

Paper 3.  Landscape and Ecology

Paper 4.  Urbanism and Society

Paper 5.  Fieldwork and Methods

Three option papers (chosen by each student from a list of nearly 30 subjects)

Artefact object handling and analysis practical sessions in the Ashmolean Museum

Dissertation (double weighted) 

In their final year all students write a dissertation on an archaeological or anthropological research topic. This is designed in consultation with a supervisor and is double weighted. Whether you want to research a question that has been puzzling you for years, or whether you are thinking ahead to a topic that you would like to study intensively at graduate level, the dissertation offers you the chance to get a taste of independent study and a further opportunity to develop expertise in a particular area and period. The Archaeology and Anthropology Dissertation Prize is awarded to the best dissertation.

All BA Archaeology and Anthropology students must complete at least four weeks of approved fieldwork to be taken before the long vacation of the second year. 

Students are encouraged to apply for internships with local and national museums.  Our Research Laboratory and our archaeobotany labs will also consider students interested in scientific research. Abroad our students have excavated medieval stone ringforts in Ireland, surveyed rock art in South Africa, excavated in Neanderthal sites in Spain, observed primate behaviours in the Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, sorted archaeobotanical remains in the sewers of Pompeii, joined field schools in New York, to name but a few locations.

Practical classes in the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art (RLAHA)

Chronometric Dating - students visit the laboratories and instruments used in radiocarbon and Luminescence dating.

Diet and Bioarchaeology - explore the practical aspects of studying past diets through isotopic measurements. Students will be able to analyse their own diet by examining strands of their hair.

Environmental Archaeology - an introduction to soils, sediments, preservation of biological remains and interpretation of the evidence. Students will have the opportunity to handle specimens and sort samples for biological remains.

Materials and Technology - an introduction to the main approaches to analysing archaeological materials including hands-on practice of microscopic and chemical techniques to identify specific materials. 

Object Handling Classes in Local Museums

Artefact analysis

Three artefact handling classes will be held in the Ashmolean Museum in the second year of study of the Final Honour School. They are intended to underpin students’ understanding of the material culture of select key areas covered by the syllabus. They focus on objects from the Ancient Near East, the Aegean Bronze Age and Medieval Europe. 

Animal Bones

This practical introduces students to the types of archaeological information that can be gleaned through the study of animal bones and to the basic principles of animal bone identification. Handling of animal bones is an important component of the course. The aim of the class is to help students make connections between the animal bones and other aspects of their archaeological course, and to provide an introduction to the field of zooarchaeology, its relevance and potential, should they wish to pursue it further.

Human Bones for Archaeologists

This class provides the opportunity to explore and consider the great plasticity found within and between modern human population groups.  This practical class allows a fully ecological approach to understanding the variation and similarities found between different hominins as well as members of the same species.


Honour Moderations

(year 1)

4 core papers

Laboratory practical sessions 

Four weeks of fieldwork

Final Honour School

(years 2 & 3)

5 core papers

Three option papers

Museum artefact analysis

Dissertation (double weighted)