Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: Archaeology

Why choose Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh?

  • Edinburgh is a renowned centre for the study of archaeology - some of the world’s most prominent archaeological scholars have studied and taught here. This ensures we have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share with you, as well as substantial collections of skeletal remains and artefacts which you’ll be able to handle, draw and learn from, including artefacts from the Indus Valley, the near east, Egypt and Europe.

  • Today we offer something for everyone interested in archaeology, from prehistoric art to laboratory work, zooarchaeology and digital applications in archaeology. The international coverage of our courses extends from Britain and Europe through to Turkey, the near east and Egypt. We cover a broad chronological spectrum extending from our early human relatives through the prehistoric periods into early historic times including the classical world. With such a diverse range of specialisms on offer, you’ll be able to tailor your programme to meet your interests and ambitions.

  • With archaeological sites on your doorstep and nearby, the city of Edinburgh also provides the perfect setting in which to study archaeology. Edinburgh is a historic city where the earliest human habitation is traced back to a Mesolithic campsite dated to c8500 BC. Traces of later Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found at a number of sites in the city and the rich archaeological story extends through medieval and later times.

  • We are a small but energetic team who are passionate about our subject and keen to share our enthusiasm with our students. Our small and cohesive community will give you the opportunity to interact regularly with your fellow students and with staff members.

  • Edinburgh offers a wide range of resources and professional expertise, giving you access to key national archaeological institutions such as National Museums Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. Edinburgh is also home to many national commercial archaeology companies, with possible opportunities for fieldwork and work experience.

  • If you want to pursue a programme incorporating fieldwork, there are opportunities to take part in excavation and archaeological survey fieldwork in the UK and Europe. Through our close partnerships with museums, archives and heritage organisations, you may also have the opportunity to gain practical experience of working in a range of other professional contexts.

Study abroad

My School offers many opportunities to get involved. I have developed good relationships and feel like I am part of the community.

Emily Johnston 4th year MA (Hons) Archaeology
Emily Johnston 4th year MA (Hons) Archaeology

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 include the study of science-based archaeology, 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.

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.

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.

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, led by professional archaeologists, in order to become familiar with 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.

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, Bronze Age near east, Iron Age Scotland, prehistoric Mediterranean isles) or on a particular theme or approach (e.g. archaeology of human remains, archaeology of architecture, 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.

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 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.

Our facilities

The School of History, Classics & Archaeology, located within the University's Central Area, has excellent teaching and study facilities.

We have five archaeological laboratories, including wet processing and bone 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 opportunities to study abroad and to join fieldwork projects overseas.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials, as well as field trips and lab-based practicals or workshops examining artefacts.

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.