Archaeology

Cambridge is one of the largest hubs of archaeological research in the UK, thanks to the combined resources of its Department of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Studying here lets you enjoy hands-on access to world-class collections in the city’s many museums, libraries and research centres.

A supervision at Christ's College, Cambridge

Why Study Archaeology at Christ's?

Christ’s has been famous for Archaeology since the 16th century, when antiquarian John Leyland – ‘the father of English local history’ – studied here. In the Victorian era our students included eminent Egyptologist and Director of the British Museum, E.A. Wallis Budge, whose legacy has enabled us to provide strong support for Archaeology. In fact, we usually have a Wallis Budge Junior Research Fellow at the College.

The College has an excellent library, particularly for Egyptology, and many of the world’s leading Egyptologists have been members of Christ’s during their careers. These include Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo and Stephen Quirke, the current Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London.

In the past students came to us through broader courses such as Archaeology and Anthropology, then Human, Social and Political Sciences, before we launched our popular single-subject course in 2017.

Our Archaeology graduates have gone into areas including commercial and field archaeology, education, conservation, museums, international development, logistics, the diplomatic service, urban planning, publishing, information architecture, politics, trade unionism, the civil service, business development, banking, law and the charity sector.
 

Course content and structure

Archaeology covers a broad range of topics, from the evolution of humans through the development of farming, ancient societies and world empires, to heritage in modern societies.

The course (or ‘tripos’) is a three-year degree during which you can follow a particular stream, choosing from:

  • Archaeology (covering all world cultures)
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Egyptology and Assyriology

Please visit the University website for full details of the Archaeology course content and structure.
 

Teaching

Christ’s students enjoy the fact that we’re one of the closest colleges to the Department of Archaeology and the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology on the Downing Site.

Your lectures are arranged by the University and you also have weekly ‘supervisions’. These are one-to-one or small-group tutorial sessions which give you the advantage of personally-tailored tuition.

Christ’s Director of Studies for Archaeology is Dr Kate Spence, a Fellow of Emmanuel College whose research focuses on the built environment and culture of Ancient Egypt and Sudan. She guides you through your course and arrange your weekly supervisions.
 

How to apply

Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you're applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.

News

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can.

At Christ's we have a page for Coronavirus disruptions and applying this year - we recommend reading and then keeping an eye on it.


Subjects: what do you need?

Archaeology is a broad subject which allows you to specialise in many areas. The course encourages study of topics ranging across the humanities, social sciences and sciences, so there are no required or recommended courses.

We welcome applications from those studying:

  • Humanistic fields such as History, English, Classics or ancient languages
  • Social Sciences such as Geography, Sociology, Psychology or Anthropology
  • Sciences such as Biology, Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics

Applicants for Egyptology and Assyriology should be enthusiastic about studying languages.

Written work

After we receive your application, we ask you to send us two examples of recent marked work that you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests. These should be work written during the normal course of your studies and already marked by a teacher. We recommend you keep copies for your own reference, as we may discuss them at interview.

We publish full guidelines on written work in the Current Applicants section on 20 September each year.

Interviews

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can. This does mean that there may be changes to the details of interviews in this section (which sets out what normally happens).

For candidates selected for interview in Cambridge, you have two interviews in early December. We don’t expect you to have any background in archaeology, as it’s a very varied field and not usually taught in schools. Simply be prepared to talk about your relevant interests and any potential directions you might want to explore.

Take a look at the information and short films on Cambridge admissions interviews to find out what to expect. We also hold interviews in various locations overseas for international students.

At-interview assessment

If we invite you for interview, we ask you to take a written assessment on the same day. We arrange this automatically so you don’t need to register, and you do the same assessment regardless of which college you apply to.

The Archaeology Admissions Assessment lasts one hour. It’s designed to assess your ability to interpret texts and write about them, based on material we supply on the day. You don’t need to prepare anything in advance or have specific prior knowledge. Further information including the format and sample questions is available on the University course information for Archaeology.

Offers

You need to be academically ambitious: for Archaeology our typical conditional offer is A*AA at A-level, or for IB students 42 points overall with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects, but the majority of Christ’s students arrive with higher grades. If you're taking another qualification, we expect you to be working at or close to the top of the mark range (thus Option Internationale du Baccalauréat candidates are asked to achieve at least 17/20 overall, with 17 or 18 in relevant subjects, and candidates taking the European Baccalaureate need at least 85% overall, with 9/10 in relevant subjects, for example). Read about offer levels in other exam systems and international entrance requirements.

If you will have finished school when you apply, read about post-qualification applications
 

Helpful resources

Reading list Suggestions so you can choose according to your interests – we don’t expect you to have read all of these if you come for interview!
A History of the World in 100 objects Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, narrates 100 programmes that retell humanity's history through the objects we have made.
Naked Archaeology Archaeology podcast
Archaeological Review A bi-annual journal of archaeology run on a non-profit voluntary basis by University of Cambridge researchers
Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Many archaeology practicals take place here due to its large teaching collection of objects. It’s free to the public so visit if you can.
Gresham College Lectures Use the search function to find the Archaeology lectures
Taster lecture

The Political Economy of Precolonial African States

Archaeology Podcast Network Free podcasts
Skills & techniques Find out about some of the skills and techniques used in Archaeology
Events for prospective students Do feel free to book a place on an archaeology event, and why not come to visit Christ's on the same day? 
CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you would be working.

 

Student Q&A film
  Watch the Christ's student Q&A film

Come to an open day or online event

Online events: Our open days and events page advertises online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge, and you can watch the Christ's student Q&A film,

One way to find out if the course is right for you is to attend one of the events for prospective Archaeology students. You can visit Christ's on the same day. Or come along to a College Open Day to get a feel for the place and talk to current students and staff.
 

Want more information?

For more detail about what the course involves, please read Undergraduate Archaeology admissions on the University website and visit the Department of Archaeology site too.

If you have any queries at all, please contact us at admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk and we’ll be happy to advise.
 

Undergraduate Admissions main page / Back to the subject list / How to apply / Why choose Christ's?