As a broad subject, Archaeology encompasses questions about the origins of our species, the diversity of ancient cultures, the development of sedentary life and farming, and the emergence of the first cities and empires. Our teaching and research ranges from understanding the role of material culture (‘things’) in human life, through the preservation of archaeological heritage in modern societies, to understanding how humans contribute to climate change, past and present.
As a student here, you could follow one of several streams – Archaeology (covering all world cultures), Biological Anthropology, Egyptology, or Assyriology. You would benefit from access to world-class collections in Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Fitzwilliam Museum, among others. Additional resources include the Haddon Library, devoted to undergraduate teaching in the subject, and area research centres.
Full course details are provided on the Department’s Prospective Undergraduates webpage and the University’s Undergraduate Study webpage. We seek students who are curious, who enjoy reading and debating ideas, and who wish to engage in hands-on study of artefacts in our museums and/or to experience archaeological fieldwork and laboratory work. Since Archaeology is a broad course, a wide range of subjects are therefore an excellent preparation to study it, from Chemistry and Biology through to Geography, History, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, English, Classics, or ancient and modern languages. No specific subjects are required or recommended, though applicants for Egyptology and Assyriology are strongly encouraged to study a language.
Archaeology at Churchill
Churchill, as a large and friendly community, offers Archaeology students an excellent library, and a Director of Studies, Elizabeth DeMarrais, who has been active in the teaching of undergraduates for many years. Liz’s current research investigates the dynamics of social groups in the past. With a broad training in Anthropology as well as Archaeology, she has long-standing interests in the origins of social inequality in the human past, the emergence of leadership, and ‘bottom-up’ patterns of social integration. She studies community organisation through the study of the built environment and architecture in the past, as well as writing about early states (the Inka empire) and particularly the importance of ideologies in shaping power relations in the past. She has previously worked in the American Southwest, Hawaii, South America, and New England.
“I really enjoyed my time at Churchill studying Archaeology — so much so that I stayed for a fourth year to take an MPhil in Archaeological Research! The Archaeology Department is great: it offers a huge variety of courses spanning different periods and regions, there’s lots of opportunities to get involved in different activities (I volunteered at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, for example) and the lecturers are all really friendly and approachable. I specialised in South American Archaeology and spent two summers excavating on a site in the Peruvian Andes, which was an incredible experience.
To find out about admissions, go to undergraduate applications.
Course-specific information, including the University’s typical offers and the attainment level of the University’s typical entrants, is available by selecting your course from the University’s Course List then looking at the Entry Requirements tab. Academic offer conditions can vary by College so if you want to apply to Churchill then check out our entries in the by-College list of entry requirements that’s available on the same tab. The University’s Entrance Requirements and International Entry Requirements webpages may contain guidance relevant to you too.
You can learn more about the academic profiles of Churchill entrants and our approach to setting conditional offers on our undergraduate applications page.
If you apply to Churchill, we’ll ask you to submit two examples of teacher-marked written work. These should be taken from your present or most recent studies, and should not be re-written or corrected for your Cambridge application. Ideally, each piece should be 1500 to 2000 words in length and should be in essay format.
All Archaeology applicants are required to take a written assessment after shortlisting for interview. There’s more information on and linked from the University’s Admissions Assessments webpage.
If you apply to Churchill, we’ll ask you to submit two examples of teacher-marked written work. These should be taken from your present or most recent studies, and should not be re-written or corrected for your Cambridge application. Ideally, each piece should be 1500 to 2000 words in length, and focus on literary, historical, or linguistic topics.
The role of academic interviews in Churchill’s admissions process is explained on our interviews page. You will not be expected to have any specific background in Archaeology, as the field is highly varied and often not studied in school. You should be prepared to discuss your interest in Archaeology and potential directions you may wish to follow.
Archaeology graduates find employment in a wide range of careers. In addition to postgraduate study leading to academic jobs, museums, or the heritage sector, recent graduates have been employed in journalism and media posts, consultancy, finance, advertising, the foreign service, international development, journalism, publishing, teaching, politics, and government.
Employers appreciate the breadth, flexibility, creativity, and independence of Archaeology graduates, who leave university with an impressive range of transferable skills.
- Renfrew, C., and P. Bahn, 2012. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. London: Thames & Hudson
- Scarre, C. (editor) 2013. The Human Past. London: Thames & Hudson