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Our Research

Understanding and interpreting the human past in all its complexity

Cambridge is home to one of the world’s largest communities of archaeological researchers. 

The core of this community is the academics based in the Department of Archaeology, who are active in field projects in all seven continents, and embrace both the scientific and the humanistic aspects of the discipline: ranging from the exploration of the nuances of archaeolgical theory through field projects and laboratory analyses to heritage studies and the investigation of ancient languages.

The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research is the home to a large community of post-doctoral research fellows, and supports all archaeological researchers of post-doctoral status, wherever they are located in the University, through grants for fieldwork, museum research and conference organisation, access to laboratories, project space, seminar facilities, and publication in the Institute’s Monograph series.

The outstanding quality of our research is regularly recognised by funding bodies.  In the period 2008-2013, we received major grants from the European Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wellcome Trust, the Royal Society, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, and the European Commission.  These have made it possible to further expand the community by creating new positions for post-doctoral researchers.

Research Clusters


Our Research Themes

The broad range of topics we research can be loosely grouped into six research themes, or “clusters”, each of which vaunts active projects in the field.

Research Projects


Our Research Projects

Our research projects are extraordinarily varied, spanning all spheres of the human past.  They extend from ancient DNA to diet in medieval Bavaria, from Palaeolithic caves in Croatia to Assyrian grammar.

Laboratory Research


Our Laboratories

Occupying some 450 m2, our six laboratories concentrate on Geoarchaeology, Bioarchaeology, Archaeogenetics, Zooarchaeology, Isotopic Analysis, and Material Culture. They incorporate high-quality optical microscopes; thin-sectioning, magnetic susceptibility, XRF and SEM facilities; and comprehensive facilities for soil embedding, skeleton preparation, sieving and flotation.


McDonald Institute


The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, with its own substantial financial endowment, acts as the “research arm” of the Division of Archaeology, by hosting conferences and seminars, providing funding, and publishing a prestigious monograph series.

Seminar Series


Seminar Series

We host a wide range of seminar and lecture series, some formal and some cozy. Our staff and students present the fruits of their research, or learn from invited speakers.