What makes the Cambridge course in Archaeology so special?

With the Department of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge is one of the largest centres of archaeological research in Britain. Archaeology students at Cambridge benefit from direct hands-on access to world-class collections in Cambridge’s many museums, libraries and research centres, and teaching from world-leading researchers. 

Our exciting undergraduate degree programme in single honours Archaeology offers a flexible course that allows students to follow their individual interests within this diverse and vibrant subject. Building on a broad base developed in the first year of study, students can follow several streams (‘tracks’) for their second and third years – Archaeology (covering cultures from across the globe), Biological Anthropology, Egyptology or Assyriology, or combined tracks in Archaeology and Biological Anthropology, or Egyptology and Assyriology. There is also the opportunity to borrow papers (the Cambridge term for individual modules) from other degree programmes including Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and Human, Social and Political Sciences.

Why choose Newnham for Archaeology?

Newnham has a strong tradition of supporting women archaeologists in Cambridge,, and is home to a thriving community of undergraduate, postgraduates, and researchers across the breadth of the subject. Dorothy Garrod of Newnham was the first female professor of Archaeology in the UK (even before Cambridge awarded women degrees), and a series of high-profile archaeologists are current or former members of the college.

How many students take Archaeology at Newnham and what options can they choose?

We expect to admit two students per year to read this subject, but there is no official limit. 

After a broad first year programme in which students can choose from a range of core papers, the second and third years offer an opportunity to focus on your particular areas of interest.

Archaeology is the study of past human societies through their material remains and environment. Archaeology covers a huge range of topics, spanning the evolution of humans through the development of farming and ancient empires, as well as the role of material culture in human life and of heritage in modern societies. It aims to reconstruct the nature and development of particular societies and explain the variations that occur among past societies. 

Assyriology is the study of the ancient languages (Akkadian and Sumerian), literature, history and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia – a region roughly equivalent to the modern Middle East and the location of the world’s first urban and literate society and some of the earliest empires. 

Biological Anthropology examines human diversity in terms of biological and evolutionary principles and methods. It explores the place of humans in nature, the pattern of our evolution, the genetics of humans and their significance, and how individuals and populations interact with their environment today. The subject incorporates behaviour, ecology, genetics, primatology and fossils to understand humanity. 

Egyptology is the study of the ancient languages, literature, history, archaeology and religion of Pharaonic Egypt. The subject includes written sources, architecture, art and material culture. 

You can find more information about the various papers and tracks on the department website.

How will I be taught at Newnham?

Teaching is provided through a combination of lectures, lab sessions, seminars, language classes, and individual or small-group supervisions. 

Can you tell me more about Archaeology Fellows at Newnham?

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for Archaeology, please visit our teaching webpages.

Are there any A-level subjects that are particularly useful?

Archaeology spans a very broad subject area, and the course allows study of topics ranging across the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences. Students with almost any combination of subjects can apply; there are no specific required or recommended courses. We welcome applications from students studying humanistic fields such as History, English, Classics, and ancient languages, social sciences such as Geography, Sociology, Psychology, or Anthropology, and sciences such as Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. Applicants for Egyptology and Assyriology are strongly encouraged to study an ancient or modern language at A-level (or equivalent). 

Can I take a gap year?

Of course. We neither encourage nor discourage students from doing this – everyone’s circumstances are different. If you are planning to take a gap year, please give some thought to how you will maintain your academic interests. 

How should I prepare for interview at Newnham?

If you apply to Newnham we will ask you to send us two pieces of written work, and you will have two interviews. You are not expected to have any standard background in Archaeology, as the field is highly varied, there are many relevant backgrounds and the subject is often not taught in schools; however, you should be prepared to discuss your relevant interests and potential directions you may wish to follow.  

Is there an Admissions Assessment for Archaeology?

Yes – all applicants will take a written assessment at-interview, based on the reading of material that we will supply. This hour-long assessment is designed to assess the ability to interpret texts and/or images and to write. Again, no special preparation or prior knowledge is required. Further information is available on the Admissions Assessment section of the Undergraduate Study website.

Where can I find out more?

For more information on the course, see 

The Archaeology Subject Overview on the ‘My HE+’ website also provides information and resources for exploring your subject. 

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