Are you thinking of studying Archaeology and Anthropology?
Archaeology and Anthropology – affectionately known as “Arch and Anth” – is the study of human beings, from prehistory to the present day, from the point of view of material culture and behaviour.
It’s a good option for those who don’t come firmly down on one side or the other of the humanities/sciences divide, as it mixes the two in an effort to gain a fuller understanding of mankind. It’s a degree that gives you a tremendous appreciation of the diversity of human life and the reasons behind it, embracing the huge historical and geographical reach of that diversity.
What kind of things can I expect to study?
Expect your time to be divided equally between archaeology and anthropology in your first year; after that, you’ll usually have more scope for specialising in the area you’re most interested in. However, there’s an emphasis on using one discipline to support the other, and vice versa; for instance, the latest scientific techniques in archaeology can provide an objective framework from which to piece together an understanding of early human life.
This part of the degree concentrates on the study of human activity: societies, behaviour, cultures, evolution, and all the other complexities of human existence. It has various branches, such as sociocultural anthropology (the study of the organisation of societies, including aspects such as class, race and so on) and biological anthropology (the biological and behavioural variations of humans, including human evolution, how humans adapt to their environment, paleoanthropology and so on). Specialist subjects could range from ethnicity and race to medical anthropology (the study of human health and disease), and even linguistic anthropology – the study of how language reflects and influences human societies.
Archaeology seeks to understand human life in times gone by specifically from the point of view of the material remains left behind by humans, from the depths of prehistory to the recent past. It has a natural fit with anthropology because it sheds light on the environments to which humans have adapted, and the solutions they have come up with to everything from eating to the organisation of societies. You can expect to study archaeological theory and methodology, as well as to learn practical skills such as how to conduct an archaeological survey. You’ll learn about archaeological sites from around the world and across many periods of prehistory and history. For optional courses, you may be able to develop your knowledge of specific archaeological periods, such as classical civilisations or the Aztecs; alternatively, you can explore specific fields of archaeology that interest you, such as zooarchaeology, environmental archaeology, and so on.
What do I need for an Archaeology and Anthropology degree?
There aren’t usually any mandatory A-level subjects for this degree, as neither subject is common at A-level; but a mixture of humanities and science subjects will provide useful preparation. History, Biology and Psychology are the three A-levels with the most obvious relevance to this degree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to choose all three of these subjects.
What skills will I acquire?
You’ll acquire scientific skills – such as the application of rigorous methodology, logic and deduction – as well as skills normally associated with humanities subjects, such as essay-writing, constructing a balanced argument and analytical thinking. The practical skills you’ll learn from both your archaeological experience during this degree and the conducting of anthropological research will stand you in good stead for a career in this field, but the principles can also be applied elsewhere. The teamwork skills you’ll develop from being on an archaeological dig will be valuable, but other aspects of the course, such as your dissertation, will teach you to work effectively alone and hone your research skills.
Will I get to travel as part of my degree?
Archaeology and Anthropology offers excellent travel opportunities, as most courses will include mandatory fieldwork, which is usually taken over the summer and could be anywhere in the world. This could be an archaeological dig or field survey, or a social anthropological study into a particular society or subset of a society (either humans or other primates). Your fieldwork could also be based in a museum.
What careers are possible with an Archaeology and Anthropology degree?
Some Archaeology and Anthropology graduates go on to become professional archaeologists or anthropologists, while others go into heritage management, museums, conservation and other subject-related disciplines, including teaching. However, the range of skills you’ll pick up from this degree can also easily be applied in any other career for which a degree is required, such as the Civil Service, financial services, law and many more.
It’s worth exploring these related degrees if you think you might be interested in studying Archaeology and Anthropology.
- Archaeology – if this is the aspect of Archaeology and Anthropology that most interests you, you can do it as a degree on its own.
- Classical Archaeology and Ancient History – this focuses on the archaeology and history of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. It’s a better option if you’re not so keen on the scientific aspects of Arch and Anth.
- Human Sciences – this is a more biology-focused degree that concentrates specifically on humans, and it’s a good option for those whose primary interest is the biological aspects of anthropology.
A final thought on Archaeology and Anthropology
An appealing aspect of this degree is its enormous breadth. It covers a vast timeframe and geographical area, with scope for studying any aspect of human life that interests you, from whole civilisations to obscure cultural peculiarities. It’s also an excellent degree from the point of view of teaching you skills in both the humanities and sciences, thereby equipping you with a plethora of useful – and often transferable – skills favoured by employers. Above all, Archaeology and Anthropology is a degree that will give you a deeper understanding of the people and societies that inhabit the world around you, making it highly relevant to real life.