Archaeology is the study of the human past, in all its social and cultural diversity. At Cambridge it is an outstandingly broad and exciting subject, equally rewarding for those who feel at home in the sciences, the humanities, or both.
Over the course of your studies, you might find yourself analysing deformations in medieval skulls; translating Egyptian hieroglyphs; reconstructing past landscapes; learning about radio-carbon dating; studying imagery in a Babylonian poem; or debating the politics of cultural heritage.
Whatever interests you pursue and develop, the new degree will refine your existing skills and build new ones, making you an informed and intelligent analyst of past societies and cultures, as well as a critical thinker, and an articulate presenter and writer of your ideas. These are skills highly valued by employers, opening the way to many careers as a graduate of Cambridge Archaeology.
But you will also gain insights into many of the most important challenges for human life on earth in the present day, from climate change to social structures, to diet and sustainability, to economic inequality. You will further have engaged in detailed study of primary sources, you may have studied ancient languages, and you will probably have written your first piece of independent research (in the form of a 10 000 word dissertation).
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- 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 subjects and are applying for admission in the October 2016 admissions round will apply for admission to the Archaeology Tripos, not for HSPS. UCAS code: V400.
- What colleges will offer it? All undergraduate colleges will offer the Archaeology Tripos.
- What subjects will potential students need to have? The Archaeology Tripos covers a broad range of topics, almost none of which are commonly taught in high schools. 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? UK students will be expected to have an A*AA on their A-levels.
- What admissions tests will students have to take? Students applying to the Archaeology Tripos will have to sit a one-hour written test 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 test? There is no specific preparation for the test; 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
- 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.
- How do I choose a college? All colleges offer all aspects of the Archaeology Tripos, whether or not they have fellows who are members of Archaeology. Aside from general criteria such as whether you like the feel of a college, its location and activities, you should also feel free to approach colleges where fellows work in areas you are interested in; Archaeology Directors of Studies and college fellows will be happy to respond to your enquiries.
- What careers can I do 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 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 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.
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