All archaeology undergraduates take part in field work and practical teaching sessions as part of their degree.
These practical sessions give you the opportunity to:
- gain hands-on experience in surveying and excavation
- see finds in context and learn how to study real archaeological evidence
- gain skills in laboratory work and data analysis
- work individually and as part of a team in real-world professional contexts.
There are also numerous opportunities to increase your experience and skills through work experience and volunteering.
The world is your oyster if you come to Nottingham because the training is so good and it's such a respected university that they're happy to take students on outside digs.
Hillery Harrison, BA Archaeology
Excavations and field work
Field work is where much of our primary information about the past comes from, and it is important to learn about its advantages and limitations. Working on site is also the best way to learn new archaeological skills, as well as being a team-building experience.
All of our archaeology students take part in a dedicated field work placement as part of their degree. The field work must be at an approved site - either run by department staff or another organisation. A list of approved projects is provided in March each year, but students have the opportunity to work on almost any professional project (subject to approval). The department has a field work officer who can assist students in finding an appropriate project.
In recent years students have taken part in excavations at Nottingham Castle and on numerous projects around the UK, as well as projects in Crete and Italy.
Field work is a compulsory element in both single and joint honours archaeology degrees. Students are asked to keep a journal of their field work experience and in Year Two they are assessed through the production of a report on their field work experience and skills development. All field work trips will be staff approved.
- Single honours - 20 days (which can include up to 10 days of museum training or similar professional experience)
- Joint honours - 10 days (which can include up to five days in a museum or similar environment)
Field work is usually carried out during the summer vacation but it can be completed at other times of the year. Students are required to complete at least part of their field work requirement in the first year of their degree.
Funding for compulsory field work
Many of our excavations are free but may require travel expenses. For example, for overseas excavations you may need to pay for your own flights, while others will require a training fee. You can claim back a proportion of your costs from the department. In 2017/18 students were able to claim back £20 of expenses per day of work within their field work; this figure may be subject to change in subsequent years.
If students wish to build up a body of professional experience in excavation, laboratory skills, or working in a museum or heritage organisation, we will strongly encourage you to gain additional professional experience through our work experience and volunteering opportunities. We have excellent relationships with key local archaeological and heritage organisations including Trent and Peak Archaeology, Nottingham City Museums Service and Nottinghamshire County Council, the National Trust, and Historic England. Many of our students have obtained work experience placements with these organisations and have gone on to successful further training and a career in the archaeology and heritage sector. Further experience is self funded and indeed in some cases students are paid by the organisation.
Practical archaeology in undergraduate modules
Most of our students have not studied archaeology before they come to University, although some of them have volunteering experience with their local archaeology group or museum. We provide dedicated training in all aspects of practical training in order to prepare our students for their field work placement. This training forms part of the teaching of the module, it therefore does not require any organising or funding on the part of the student.
The Year One module Understanding the Past introduces students to the principles and methods of archaeology, from how we identify and discover sites, to how we excavate and record archaeological remains. You will be taken out into the field and taught basic archaeological techniques: mapping, reading historic landscapes, topographic and earthwork survey, and recording historic buildings.
In Year Two, the module Archaeology and Society: Heritage and Professional Skills
introduces you to the real-world of professional archaeology, learning how we manage, conserve and record archaeological sites and historic buildings and how we display and interpret them for the public.
Laboratory sessions and object handling
We have a dedicated suite of laboratory facilities which were refurbished in 2016-17 to accommodate more practical sessions and to facilitate independent practical work by students. The laboratories provide state-of-the-art resources and equipment for the study and analysis of a wide range of archaeological materials – including ancient ceramics, glass and metals; human and animal bones; plant remains and seeds; stable isotope analysis and laser scanning and digital data.
All of our archaeological science modules include extended laboratory practical sessions where students are trained in a range of analytical techniques. BA and BSc archaeology students study the Introduction to Archaeological Science module to give them a basic grounding in the ways in which archaeologists use science to study the past. In the second and third year, BSc students study scientific archaeology in more depth with modules dedicated to a range of methods and techniques in archaeological materials and environmental archaeology. BA students can select archaeological science topics as optional modules.
Many of our modules also make use of the archaeological collections in our on-campus archaeology museum through dedicated object handling sessions, on material ranging from Palaeolithic stone hand-axes to Roman Samian-ware pottery.
Case study: Revolutionising our understanding of Southwell
Nottingham students played an active part in 'Digging the Peculiar': the Southwell Archaeology Project.