Archaeology and Anthropology

I decided to study Archaeology and Anthropology because I have always wanted to understand how societies developed across the world, from the earliest proto-humans up to the first city states in the Near East. I also find the breadth of human culture fascinating, and wanted to learn as much about it as possible. What I enjoy most about the course is its incredibly broad nature! With Arch and Anth you are always going to be taught something you find utterly captivating. My best experience of studying at Oxford was the cross-year training excavation at a Roman site called Dorchester. Spending time with my out-of-college friends was truly brilliant.

Alex, Hertford, student from 2013

I initially chose Arc and Anth because it contained many of the topics that I was especially interested in, such as human evolution and the formation of states. Since I was more attracted to the archaeological modules, it was a surprise when the anthropological unit quickly became my favourite. I found that, because it was so interesting, it was easy to read about different witchcraft practices and kinship beliefs in faraway cultures! I have always enjoyed writing essays, so the Oxford style of learning, which includes twelve essays per term, really appealed to me. I was also attracted to Oxford by the small year-group size – there are less than thirty of us in the year, meaning you can easily become friends with everyone on the course.

One of the best things about Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford is that, in the summer of your first year, you get to undertake five weeks of fieldwork. A fortnight of this is done with your entire year group at a dig near Oxford. Although this includes camping and unreliable weather, it’s a great chance to spend time with your friends, experience a real excavation during the day, and finish the night in the local pub!

Laurel, Keble, student from 2012

The first-year workload consists of around four one-hour lectures each week, with occasional practical classes a couple of times per term. This may not seem like a lot, but in Oxford the focus is firmly on reading and individual work; you will also be set three essays every fortnight, which are discussed in separate tutorials. Your first year will be made up of four modules – three for Archaeology and one for Anthropology. The workload will get more intense during your second and third years, but by then you’ll be used to writing Oxford-style essays with the typical Oxford time restraints! Second-year is also when you’re allowed to choose three option papers with a wide choice of modules to meet everybody’s interests, from Landscape Archaeology to the Anthropology of Medicine.

What makes Oxford different?

During your first year, it is compulsory to do five weeks of fieldwork – two weeks of this must be done at an excavation near Oxford, but the other three can be done anywhere in the world! On a lazier note, there are only four lectures per week (and none are before 10am), meaning that you can spend most of your time working in the way that’s best for you. Some of these lectures take place in the famous Pitt Rivers Museum, which is an amazing environment to learn in!

Find out more

Course length: 3 years
Students per year: 20
Typical weekly contact time in first year: 6 hours lectures, 1 or 2 hours tutorials

Make sure you read the official prospectus entry for the course which contains entry requirements, full course structure, additional interesting resources and full details of the application process.

If you're going to apply, you'll want to check which Oxford colleges offer this course.

You might also find it helpful to hear from students studying CAAH, History of Art, History, AMH, Human Sciences or Earth Sciences (or even consider applying for those courses!).