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Research Themes

The research carried out in the Department of Archaeology and at the McDonald Institute primarily falls within a series of broad, distinct and overlapping research themes that foster links across periods, regions, methods, and theoretical approaches. This strengthens the cohesion of Cambridge's large archaeological research community and fosters its richness and diversity. There are six themes, each characterized by innovative theoretical and methodological studies and syntheses, humanities-based and science-based archaeology, active field projects, significant research grants, and conferences:

 The boundaries between the six themes are deliberately permeable and many researchers publish across these themes, and all comprise staff, Post-doctoral Research Fellows, PhD students, and Masters students who meet regularly through a network of seminars and project and laboratory group meetings.

The most attractive features of these themes is that they deliberately bring together archaeologists working on different periods of the past with very different methods, making for some dynamic and exciting collaborations in which many graduate students participate.  These complementarities and collaborations are promoted especially by a dense matrix of around 25 seminar, project, and laboratory groups meeting weekly or fortnightly in term and involving staff, post-doctoral research fellows, visiting scholars, doctoral and masters students, with undergraduates developing research interests in a particular field also welcome. The Institute hosts about 200 such meetings each year. Our research is also greatly enriched by the many scholars from all parts of the world who come to pursue their research for a term or a year – over 120 were hosted by the Institute between 2008 and 2013, for example.

Research students play a key role in the organisation of these thematic or period-based research seminar groups, the regular meetings of which are open to staff, post-doctoral researchers, doctoral students, and advanced undergraduates. This epitomises our commitment to an explicit link between archaeology teaching and research. These seminar groups encourage a research ethos throughout the student body, promote debate and engagement with the research process, and also provide undergraduates with role models for careers in research or other fields