Archaeology and Anthropology | University of Oxford
Archaeology and Anthropolgy
An Archaeologist excavating a burial.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Archaeology and Anthropology

Archaeology and anthropology together encompass the study of humankind from the origins of the human species to the present day. Both disciplines have a long history: archaeology grew from 18th-century antiquarianism, while anthropology began even earlier in the first days of colonial encounter. Today both subjects involve a range of sophisticated approaches shared with the arts, social sciences and physical sciences.

The Oxford degree is distinctive in the way it combines archaeology and anthropology throughout the course, offering an unusually broad perspective on human societies from earliest prehistory to the present. Six institutions specialise in these subjects: the Institutes of Archaeology and of Social and Cultural Anthropology, the Ashmolean Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art. All play a key role in the degree, are supported by world-class libraries and are well equipped with laboratories and computing resources.

Oxford’s Archaeology and Anthropology course offers a comprehensive guide to the richness and diversity of human cultural experience throughout space and time. By choosing to study here you will be able to:

  • explore how humans evolved
  • get to grips with major transformational processes in human history such as the development of farming, the emergence of towns and trading systems and the spread of world religions
  • assess the relative importance of environmental, genetic and social factors in understanding patterns of human growth and nutrition
  • learn why societies structure their families, economies and political systems in the ways that they do
  • investigate how material culture represents and reproduces beliefs and ideologies.

Careers

Archaeology and Anthropology opens up a wide range of career opportunities, in part because the degree offers a unique perspective on how human societies operate and develop and on how people interact with each other. It is also due to the intellectually demanding requirements of an Oxford degree, and to its ideal combination of personal learning, independent study and tutorial teaching. Graduates of this course have found opportunities in heritage management, museum curation, education, regional archaeological services, international development, the Civil Service, advertising, marketing, computing, energy supply, community relations, law and media.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, History courses, History of Art, Human Sciences, or Earth Sciences (Geology).

Work placements/international opportunities

As part of your course you will undertake at least three weeks of fieldwork anywhere in the world (subject to approval by tutors). Recent destinations include South Africa, the Andes and Georgia. Fieldwork can take place in field settings, or in a laboratory or museum. Financial support for this fieldwork is available from the University and may also be available from your college. You may also engage in fieldwork as part of your final-year dissertation, while other opportunities may exist for work-based learning in the University’s museums.

A typical weekly timetable

Your work is divided among lectures, tutorials and practical classes. In the first year you will spend about six hours a week in lectures, closely tied to the course’s core papers. Lectures for core and option papers take up about ten hours a week in years 2 and 3. Throughout the course, there are one or two tutorials a week (normally a total of twelve in each term).

1st year

Courses

Four core courses are taken:

  • Introduction to world archaeology
  • Introduction to anthropological theory
  • Perspectives on human evolution
  • The nature of archaeological enquiry

Practical classes
Fieldwork

Assessment

First University examinations:
Four written papers

2nd and 3rd years

Courses

Four core courses are taken:

  • Social analysis and interpretation
  • Cultural representations, beliefs and practices
  • Landscape and ecology
  • Urbanisation and change in complex societies

Options (three from a broad range of anthropological and archaeological courses)
Thesis
A full list of current options is available on the Archaeology website.

Assessment

Final University examinations:
Seven written papers; thesis

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

A background of studying both arts and science subjects can be helpful to students in completing this course, although there are no specific subject requirements for admission.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2016.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,000£0£9,000
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,000£0£9,000
Overseas£15,295£7,135£22,430

For more information please refer to our tuition fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for 2016/17 are estimated to be between £970 and £1,433 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support

Home/EU

A full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

In 2016 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less.  This support is available in addition to the government grants and loans.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Archaeology and Anthropology

All Archaeology and Anthropology students take part in a two-week training excavation run by members of the School of Archaeology. This trip is fully funded, so you will not need to pay for it yourself.

You will also need to undertake at least three further weeks of fieldwork, which gives you the chance to participate in other archaeological or anthropological projects. While some students choose to pursue an archaeological project (excavation or field survey), others take part in museum-based work or participate in anthropological fieldwork. Recent students have taken part in anthropological fieldwork in the UK, Bangladesh and Cuba, have worked with curators in major museums around the world or have pursued archaeological excavations in locations ranging from Peru to Japan. The cost will depend on the location that you choose. Up to £300 is available to help cover expenses, and a grant may also be available.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written work

As part of your application you will be required to submit two recent marked essays, each written as part of a school or college course within a two-week period or less, preferably in different subjects; you have the option of submitting an additional piece of work composed over a longer period of time if you so wish. You are also required to submit a short essay of no more than 500 words in response to the following question: what can we learn about people past or present from their material culture? These should be submitted by 10 November 2016.

See further guidance on the submission of written work.

Written test

You do not need to take a written test as part of an application for this course.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors will primarily be looking for an interest in, and enthusiasm for, the study of humans and their material culture, ideally from both humanities and science perspectives, combined with an ability to digest and assimilate significant quantities of data and to argue from evidence. No prior experience of archaeology or anthropology is required, but any fieldwork experience and general reading in the subject further demonstrates your interest and commitment.

Our tutors will be looking for the following qualities at interview:

  • an ability to think independently
  • potential and motivation for studying archaeology and anthropology
  • enthusiasm and interest in the combined disciplines
  • commitment to the requirements of the course.

Selection criteria

Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for this course.

Suggested reading

You may also like to take a look at the website Discover Anthropology.

Apply

Chris Turner, 1st year

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.

Erin, 2nd year

'Choosing Archaeology and Anthropology, for me, was about the amazing breadth of the subject. I had always favoured history and the biological sciences in school, and this degree offers ways to not only combine the two, but also to look at both history and science from a completely new angle. Now that I’m in my second year, I can’t imagine having chosen a different subject.

With my degree, I’ve had the opportunity for field trips, field work in southern England, and am planning on several months in South America, all with help from my tutors and college, who fully support getting out and doing real-life archaeological and anthropological work.'

Oliver, who graduated in 2005

He currently works as Head of Physics in a north London school says:  

‘The skills acquired during my study in Oxford (time management, discussion with peers and superiors, information synthesis and independent study, thought and organisation) are useful to me in both my day-to-day duties and my longer term career aspirations.’

Natasha, Archaeology and Anthropology, who graduated in 2010

The most unexpected thing about my course:

'How broad it is!  The remit for Arch and Anth is essentially every human society in the world both today and throughout the whole of history.  You can pretty much study anything within that, which is so exciting!  I'd thought it would focus on the big civilisations (Greece, Rome, Inca, Maya, Egypt etc) but actually some of the most interesting stuff turned out to be the slightly more obscure areas, such as gift exchange in modern Japan.'

I wish they'd told me when I was applying to university...

'That it's okay just to be yourself and not feel like you have to fit in with people, because Oxford is so big that you will find people you get on really well with without even needing to try.  I realise that after three years here, but I think it would have been nice to hear during my first term so I didn't feel like I had to drink quite so much!'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'Believe it or not, being at Oxford really widened my perceptions and led me to challenge a lot of the preconceptions that I'd come here with.  This was particularly down to my college (Hertford) as it's really diverse and open to so many different perspectives.'

My favourite Oxford memory is..

'Spending time in the sun with wonderful people, knowing that we all have work we should be doing but just choosing to forget about it for now and enjoy the moment.'

I'd just like to add:

'That Oxford is a totally amazing place to spend three years, and it's just nothing like the way it's presented in the media.'

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college