Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Archaeology

Why choose Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We’re ranked in the top 10 universities in the UK for archaeology in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017.

  • Our programmes offer many opportunities for practical archaeological experience. Students often get involved in staff projects, ranging from Scotland to Egypt, during vacations or as part of their final year dissertation. There are also opportunities to take part in external excavation and archaeological survey fieldwork in the UK and Europe.

  • You will study in a city full of resources and professional expertise, with key national archaeological institutions such as National Museums Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. Edinburgh is home to many national commercial archaeology companies and important archaeological sites which date back to the Mesolithic period, providing opportunities for fieldwork and work experience.

  • You will benefit from our wide range of scientific expertise, notably artefact and materials analysis, digital imaging techniques, visualisation and modelling, the study of human and animal remains (bioarchaeology), and forensic anthropology.

  • We have extensive laboratory facilities. Our five dedicated science-based archaeology teaching labs include a chemistry lab for collagen extraction and preparation of experimental materials, a wet lab for skeletal and experimental processing, a microscope lab, a research lab and a computer lab giving access to a range of specialist software.

  • You will be able to handle, draw and learn from our large teaching collection of skeletal remains and archaeological artefacts, including the famous Vere Gordon Childe collection of artefacts from around the world.

Study abroad

The programme allows for incredible diversity in specialisations of study. I combine ethnographic studies of contemporary studies, via anthropology, with archaeological theory and its inclusive perspectives on human history.

Savannah Tudlong 2nd year MA (Hons) Archaeology & Social Anthropology
Savannah Tudlong 2nd year MA (Hons) Archaeology & Social Anthropology

Archaeology investigates the human past using material remains such as artefacts and excavated sites to reconstruct the economic, social and cultural life of early societies. At Edinburgh we have a rich tradition of archaeological teaching and research, specialising in European prehistory, the early civilisations of the Mediterranean and the Near East and Egypt.

You will be introduced to standard and innovative archaeological techniques and the practice and theory of archaeology. This will take in the study of science-based archaeology, including the study of animal and human bones and digital applications.

You can choose to specialise by geographical area or period and to become involved in practical research or applied archaeology, for example through fieldwork.

Archaeology investigates the human past using material remains such as artefacts and excavated sites to reconstruct the economic, social and cultural life of early societies.

In Archaeology, what you will study varies from programme to programme. Find specific year-by-year study information on your chosen programme page.

Archaeology is generally a new topic to Year 1 university students; therefore, Years 1 and 2 are designed to give you a broad introduction to the material, method and theory of this exciting discipline. You will also acquire the general temporal and geographical framework necessary to understand the earliest history of our species.

Degree structure

Archaeology 1A and Archaeology 1B (Year 1) will introduce you to key sites from early prehistoric Europe to the early civilisations in the Near East and Egypt, as well as a general understanding of how archaeology is practiced both in the field and in the lab.

In Year 2, you will explore Scotland's amazing archaeology including its famous megalithic monuments up to the time of the Roman conquest (Archaeology 2A). You will learn further about the specialised methods and applications that allow archaeologists to reconstruct past environments and diets, analyse artefacts, or survey and date ancient sites (Archaeology 2B).

Single-honours archaeology students will also participate in a course dedicated to the study of human remains. In addition to these archaeology courses, you can choose courses in history and classics, as well as in other subject areas such as social anthropology, geography, the study of a modern language and many others, subject to availability and to you being able to accommodate such combinations in your timetable.

At honours level (Years 3 and 4) you have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of more specialised and in-depth archaeology courses delivered by our expert international staff in a lively, small-class environment.

Courses focus on a time period or a geographic area (e.g. Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe, the prehistoric Mediterranean, ancient Egypt) or on a particular theme or approach (e.g. archaeology of human remains, archaeological illustration, conflict archaeology, ritual and monumentality, scientific methods in bio-archaeology).

The programme ends with your undergraduate dissertation, written during Year 4 on a topic of your choice, jointly agreed on and under the supervision of one of our staff members.

Field work

Field training is a key part of archaeological learning at Edinburgh. During the summer of Year 1 you will normally participate, for a minimum of three weeks, in an archaeological fieldwork project in the UK or abroad.

These projects are led by professional archaeologists and provide training in the basic skills of applied archaeology. Depending on the project, these may include learning how to survey and excavate a site and how to record and process archaeological finds.

Are there additional costs?

In Year 1 you are expected to participate in an archaeological fieldwork project. Normally the minimum requirement is three weeks of field experience. Archaeological projects often charge a participation fee.

We are able to make a contribution towards your mandatory fieldwork in Year 1, and also to fieldwork and practical work in later years if it contributes to your programme, but the overall cost to you will depend on the type of work chosen and where it takes place (many of our projects are conducted abroad).

In later years, you may opt to undertake additional practical archaeological work in the vacations following Year 2 and 3. If you study abroad in Year 3, your costs will vary by country.

Our facilities

The School of History, Classics & Archaeology, located within the University's Central Area, has excellent teaching and study facilities. Some of your classes will also take place at the National Museum of Scotland.

We have five archaeological research and teaching laboratories, including post-excavation processing and wet chemistry labs as well as a large teaching laboratory for the study of skeletal remains.

You can use the School's dedicated study spaces, which have computers and general reference collections. You will also have access to the University's libraries.

Study abroad

There are plenty of opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 by applying for the School’s Erasmus exchange agreements with prestigious universities across Europe, or for one of the University’s many international exchanges beyond Europe. These cover practically every continent on the globe, from North and South America to Australasia and all of Asia.

These are unique opportunities to immerse yourself in different university systems and cultures. There will normally be opportunities to complete archaeological fieldwork or other practical assignments in locations outside the UK.

How will I learn?

You will be taught by experienced staff with international expertise, through a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials, as well as field trips and lab-based practicals or workshops examining a wide range of archaeological materials, including artefacts and animal and human remains.

In the summer vacation at the end of Year 1 you will normally complete three weeks of fieldwork either inside or outside of the UK. Fieldwork or other practical work in later years is optional, but it can contribute towards your final degree and can also contribute to your dissertation research.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed primarily through coursework and exams. Some classes also include assessed oral presentations, practicals and/or group work.

With an archaeology qualification from the University of Edinburgh, you will gain practical, social, intellectual and theoretical skills. You will become familiar with a range of disciplines, enabling you to demonstrate intellectual flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt to new situations.

You’ll learn to think logically through developing sound research and analytical skills and you’ll be able to compile and critically evaluate evidence in order to formulate and present an argument coherently.

Through fieldwork, you’ll develop a range of practical archaeological skills that will enable you to appreciate more fully our human environment and its role in the contemporary world.

Many archaeology graduates find employment as professional archaeologists working for government agencies, universities, museums and heritage organisations or applied archaeological companies/consultancies in the UK or elsewhere.

Our graduates are also well-rounded people with a range of transferable skills that will give you the opportunity to pursue a broad range of careers, for example, in business, management, teaching, journalism, the police and the civil service.