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Degree Structure

The Archaeology Tripos - the Cambridge name for courses and examinations that lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree - builds on over 100 years of teaching in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. It gives you the broadest range of experiences and opportunities in the fields of Archaeology, Assyriology, Biological Anthropology, and Egyptology. These fields can be studied separately or combined and tailored to your own interests through your choice of papers alongside compulsory modules (‘paper’ being the Cambridge term for a course of study leading to an examination).

You have between six and eight lectures and one or two supervisions each week. You may also have language classes, seminars and/or practicals. You’re assessed each year, through written exams and coursework. Some modules may include assessed practicals/fieldwork. Most students also write a 10,000 word dissertation in Year 3.

Year 1 (four papers) 

You pick three papers from seven core archaeology, language and biological anthropology modules. They introduce you to:

Archaeology: The study of the human past, in all its social and cultural diversity.  Archaeologists investigate material remains, through which they reconstruct past patterns of adaptation and food production, socio-political institutions, economic interaction, and technology.  From the evolution of the human species to the emergence of archaic states and empires, archaeology emphasises long-term trajectories of change, highlighting questions of how and why societies change through time.
 

Biological Anthropology: The study of the place that humans occupy in nature, and the origin and pattern of human diversity.  With an emphasis on the interaction between biology and culture, it sits firmly between the social and biological sciences.  The teaching in this subject area provides an understanding of our evolutionary history, adaptations, genetics, behaviour, and human health and disease, with a particular emphasis on how these factors relate to social and behavioural change.

Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia: these regions housed the world's first literate complex cultures. The first-year survey course covers the history, material culture, sites, literatures and landscapes of these regions, to reach a deep and multi-disciplinary understanding of their cultures. First-year papers are also available in Egyptian and Babylonian language, which develop skills different from those in essay-based subjects.

Your fourth can be another core module, or a module from psychology, social anthropology, sociology or politics/international relations. There is more information of the content of the Year 1 core modules in the drop-down accordion below.
  • World Archaeology 
  • Archaeology in action 
  • Introduction to the cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia 
  • Babylonian language 1 
  • Egyptian language 1 
  • Being human: interdisciplinary perspectives 
  • Humans in biological perspective
Years 2 and 3
You can pursue one of four single-subject tracks.
They can also be combined as Archaeology/ Biological Anthropology or Assyriology/ Egyptology. 
 
From the academic year 2021-22 onwards the undergraduate degree shall use the marks from both your second and third years to determine the degree classification. The classification weighting shall be 30% (second year) and 70% (third year).
 
See below for detailed information on course structure for each single-subject option.
Year 1 Core Modules Explained

Core modules in Year 1

A1. World Archaeology

This module focuses on key thresholds in the unfolding story of how and why societies change, starting from the origins of the human species. You will study the emergence of culture and the use of symbols, domestication of plants and animals, and the development of social inequalities and leadership. 

A2. Archaeology in action

This module gives a comprehensive introduction to the methods and practices involved in archaeological field and lab research. The field trips introduce you to archaeological research on the ground (and from the air), including ways of surveying and mapping landscapes, the reconstruction of the environment in the past, and the investigation of human life-ways in settlements. 

A3. Introduction to the cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia

This module provides a broad survey of the archaeology and history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, introducing you to key themes and approaches in the study of these two regions. The module provides outline histories of the regions and introduces the geography, archaeology, society, literature, art, belief systems and mortuary practices of these areas. 

A4. Being human: interdisciplinary perspectives

This module introduces students to ways of looking at humans in different relevant disciplines, including social and biological anthropology. How does understanding humans as biological organisms or as members of cultures sometimes radically different from ours change how we understand the past and human societies?

B1. Humans in biological perspective

This module provides a broad introduction to biological anthropology and covers major subject areas such as primate biology and behaviour, human evolution, adaptation to different environments and life history theory. 

E1. Egyptian language 1

This module offers an introduction to Middle Egyptian, the classical phase of the ancient Egyptian language that developed around 2000 B.C. It provides a firm grounding in the fundamentals of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script and grammar, using a range of ‘set texts’ drawn from original sources. 

M1. Babylonian language 

This module, which presumes no previous knowledge of languages, introduces you to Babylonian as used in the Law Code of Hammurapi (c. 1760 BC) and the inscriptions of Sennacherib, king Assyria (c. 700 BC).  

Archaeology Track

Archaeology 

Year 2

You take modules on theory and practice, data analysis, and the archaeology of a particular period or region. The fourth is either another period/region option, a biological anthropology module or one from another Tripos such as Classics or Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS). 

 

Year 3

You complete at least four weeks of fieldwork before Year 3. You write a dissertation and study advanced archaeological thought, archaeology in the wider world, plus additional modules from Archaeology, or from another Tripos such as Classics or HSPS. 

Assyriology Track

Assyriology

Year 2

You take four modules: Mesopotamian archaeology, Babylonian language, and two from other course options (one can be from Classics or HSPS). 

 

Year 3

You undertake a four-week study tour and/or fieldwork before Year 3. You take further modules in Babylonian and Assyrian language, Mesopotamian archaeology, Mesopotamian history or culture, or Sumerian language. The fourth can be your dissertation or another period/region option, a biological anthropology module or one from another Tripos such as Classics or HSPS. 

Egyptology Track

Egyptology

Year 2

You take modules in Egyptian language and archaeological methods and concepts, plus two modules on society, religion and death in Ancient Egypt. 

 

Year 3

You undertake a four-week study tour and/or fieldwork before Year 3. Alongside a core Egyptian language module and two Egyptian archaeology modules, you will also write a dissertation.

Biological Anthropology Track

Biological Anthropology

Year 2

You take a module on data analysis and interpretation, plus two modules from: human ecology and behaviour, human evolution and comparative human biology. You select your fourth from options offered elsewhere in this course, or from another Tripos such as Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) or HSPS.

 

Year 3

You take a module on major topics in human evolutionary studies and you write a dissertation. You take further modules from a range including biological anthropology, archaeology and PBS. 

 

Archaeology and Biological Anthropology combined

Archaeology and Biological Anthropology

Year 2

You take a Biological Anthropology core module, an Archaeological Method and Theory core module, statistics, and an optional module in either subject. Year 3 You complete at least four weeks of fieldwork before Year 3. In Year 3, you take one core module which can be in either subject, take optional modules in both subjects, and write a dissertation.

Year 3

You complete at least four weeks of fieldwork before Year 3. In Year 3, you take one core module which can be in either subject, take optional modules in both subjects, and write a dissertation.
 

Egyptology and Assyriology combined

Egyptology and Assyriology

Year 2

You take one module each in Egyptian language and Akkadian, and one module each in Egyptian archaeology and Mesopotamian archaeology. Year 3 You complete at least four weeks of fieldwork/ study before Year 3. In Year 3, you take one module each in Egyptian language and Akkadian, one module in either Egyptian or Mesopotamian archaeology, and either a fourth module in Egyptian or Mesopotamian archaeology or a dissertation.

Year 3

You complete at least four weeks of fieldwork/ study before Year 3. In Year 3, you take one module each in Egyptian language and Akkadian, one module in either Egyptian or Mesopotamian archaeology, and either a fourth module in Egyptian or Mesopotamian archaeology or a dissertation.
 

List of Papers

Note: Not all papers are taught every single academic year.

Part I Thematic Modules

  • A1 World Archaeology
  • A2 Archaeology in Action
  • A3 Introduction to the Cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia
  • A4 Being human: interdisciplinary perspectives
  • B1 Humans in biological perspective
  • E1 Egyptian Language I
  • M1 Babylonian Language I

Part II Thematic Modules

  • A10 Archaeological Theory and Practice 1
  • A11 From Data to Interpretation (B5/BG4 for the BioAnth track)
  • A12 Archaeological Theory and practice 2
  • A13 The Past in the Present
  • B2/BG2 Human Ecology and Behaviour
  • B3/BG3 Human Evolution
  • B4/BG4 Comparative Human Biology
  • B5/BG5 From Data to Interpretation (A11 for Archaeology tracks)
  • B6/BG6 Major Topics in Evolutionary Studies

Part II  Year-Long Archaeology Modules (Shared with MPhils)

  • A2 Archaeology in Action
  • A21 Archaeological Science I
  • A22/G04 Palaeolithic Archaeology
  • A23/G05 European Prehistory
  • A24 The Medieval Globe
  • A25/G07 Mesopotamian Archaeology I
  • A27/G09 Settlement and Society in ancient Egypt/Historical archaeology of ancient Egypt I
  • A29/G11 The archaeology of religion in ancient Egypt/ Historical archaeology of ancient Egypt I 
  • A31/G13 Ancient India I: the Indus civilisation and beyond
  • A35/G17 The Archaeology of Africa
  • E1/G25 Egyptian Language I
  • E2/G26 Middle Egyptian Texts
  • E3/G27 Old and Late Egyptian Texts
  • E4/G28 Coptic
  • M1/G30 Babylonian Language I
  • M3/G32 Mesopotamian Culture II: religion and scholarship
  • M4/G33 Intermediate Babylonian
  • M5 Advanced Babylonian and Assyrian

Part II One-Term Options Modules (Shared with MPhils)

  • A50/B14 A Technologically Dependent Lineage
  • A61 Archaeology of Colonialism
  • A62 Historical Ecology
  • AS3 Geographical information systems in Archaeology
  • AS5/B18 Human Osteology
  • AS7 Geoarchaeology (organised within AS11)
  • AS8 Molecular Archaeology
  • AS9 Analysis of archaeological materials
  • AS11 Environmental Archaeology
  • B11 The human species: evolution, dispersals and diversity 
  • B12 The Inner Ape: Hominin Origins and Evolution
  • B13 Evolution, medicine, and public health: new perspectives on health and disease
  • B14/A50 A Technologically Dependent Lineage
  • B15 Human Sociality: Evolutionary Perspectives on Cooperation, Culture and Cognition
  • B16 Genomes: Ancient, Modern and Mixed
  • B17 Our extended family: primate biology and behaviour
  • B18/AS5 Decoding the Skeleton

Part II One-Term Options Modules (Shared with MPhils)

  • IIB Research Skills

The course information for each option is also available in the form of a track prospectus for download:

Archaeology Prospectus

Assyriology Prospectus

Biological Anthropology Prospectus

Egyptology Prospectus

 

General Enquiries to the Department

Please contact the Undergraduate Administrator