Historical archaeology is the study of the material remains of past societies with written records, from the empires of the ancient world, through the medieval and post-medieval periods, up to the present day. Archaeology gives us a valuable new insight into these periods of the past which complements, and sometimes challenges, the evidence from written records.
The BA in Historical Archaeology aims to introduce students to the discipline of archaeology and to explain how archaeologists use evidence to interpret the past. You will study the whole span of human history, with a focus on the material culture, buildings and historic landscapes of Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean from the ancient world to modern times. You will progress from the first-year core modules to a more in-depth focus on particular periods in the second and third years, with the option to take more practical and scientific modules, and you will develop the skills to undertake your own independent research.
This course is designed for students who are fascinated by history, but would like to study a wider range of periods and themes, and to explore the different perspective on the past given by material remains – from the rise of empires and the growth of cities to understanding the lifestyle and culture of ordinary people in the past. Archaeology is a practical discipline that helps you to develop a wide range of skills in fieldwork, data analysis and the use of evidence beyond traditional academic study and it is ideal for people looking for a ‘hands-on’ approach to history.
It is compulsory for you to gain archaeological experience in the UK or overseas by participating in an approved excavation project or related work experience placement (20 days for Single Honours students, 10 days for Joint Honours students).
As well as the wide range of modules offered by the Department of Archaeology, each year you also have the option to take some subsidiary modules offered by other Departments such as Classics or History of Art, or to study a language.
Year one will lay the foundation of your study of archaeology with core modules in the principles and methods of archaeological investigation, as not many students have studied archaeology in depth before they come to university. You will be taught how we discover, excavate, record and analyse archaeological evidence ranging from landscapes to buildings and settlements to objects, burials and organic remains. You will have training in the field in basic archaeological techniques and study the core principles of archaeological science. You will also be given an overview of the archaeology of the British Isles from early prehistory to the industrial revolution, and study key themes such as the archaeology of burials.
In the summer vacation you will complete at least part of your required fieldwork placement.
In year two you will study more advanced core modules in archaeological research, which will teach you the diverse ways in which we approach and interpret our evidence, and help you to create a research proposal for your third-year dissertation project. You will also study heritage issues and the professional aspects of archaeology, which is essential for anyone who would like to go into a career in the heritage sector, and you will work in groups to create a heritage project based on a local site. You will take modules focused on historic periods in the archaeology of Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean, building on the introductory modules of the first year, and you can choose to take modules in more specialist areas of archaeology such as Human osteology and evolution or Underwater archaeology.
Your final year gives you the chance to undertake your own research project on an original topic within the broad subject area of historical archaeology, which you will write up as a dissertation with the support of a member of staff. Recent dissertations have covered a wide range of subjects, from Romano-British dress accessories to the study of Anglo-Saxon skeletons and Tudor country houses. You will also take advanced modules in Roman archaeology and Medieval archaeology, strengthening your understanding of methods and approaches in historical archaeology. You can also select optional modules from the wide range offered by the Department, which are based on the current research of members of staff.