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.

One of the largest centres of archaeological research in Britain, the Department of Archaeology, together with the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, was recently awarded top place for Archaeology in the UK by the The Sunday Times Good University Guide.

As an Archaeology student at Cambridge, 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.

Archaeology at Churchill

While Churchill College is well-known for its strengths in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering, 30% of our undergraduates study arts and humanities subjects. 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. She is the coordinator of the first-year Introduction to Archaeology paper in the Department. Other Fellows in the College have interests in Archaeology, and related disciplines such as Anthropology are also well-represented.

Dr DeMarrais’ current research investigates the dynamics of social groups in the past; her most recent publication is an issue of World Archaeology entitled ‘The Archaeology of Coalition and Consensus’ (2016) that sought an understanding of the ways that people built alliances, forged consensus, and cooperated in past societies where ‘top-down’ leadership was weak or absent.

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 worked in the American Southwest, Hawaii, and South America in the past, and is currently beginning a new project in New England on the historic period, which will involve undergraduates in future years.

Student Testimonial

“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.

One particular benefit of studying Archaeology at Churchill is that it’s a big college — so even though Archaeology is quite a small subject, there are always other Archaeology students around. The College also has Fellows in Archaeology and Anthropology. I really liked this, as it meant there was always someone to study with, or ask for advice. The library is well stocked with Archaeology books, and Churchill is a lovely place to live — it has a great community of students and staff, the accommodation is good and there’s lots of societies and sports teams to get involved with.”

— Beth

Suggested reading

  • Renfrew, C., and P. Bahn, 2012. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. London: Thames & Hudson
  • Scarre, C. (editor) 2013. The Human Past. London: Thames & Hudson


For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office