Archaeology is the study of past human communities from their material remains. It is an archaeologist’s job to combine knowledge from known history and discovered material remains to help build a picture of what occurred in the past.
There are two main approaches to archaeology. Firstly is the appreciation of history, which is one aspect that students will cover. Students will be brought up to date with known theories of human history, and for this, archaeology can be considered a humanities subject. On the other hand, students will need to be equipped with the skills to analyse the vast amount of materials that can be discovered. Materials include artefacts, architecture, biofacts and more. For this, archaeology combines science as a core element of study.
As a course, archaeology paints the picture of why we are here, how we got here and helps us understand human behaviour. Archaeologists offer an invaluable skill by drawing upon knowledge in: anthropology; history; art history; classics; geology; chemistry; information sciences and many more. If you want to be part of this multidisciplinary approach and help to answer the ‘big questions’ of human history, archaeology could be the subject for you.
What will I learn?
One of the first things that students will learn is the history of the UK and other countries. Then, they will be introduced to a broad understanding of how archaeology has worked so far.
As the course progresses, students will focus more on skills offered by the university. History topics of particular interest can then be selected. These could include Greece, Rome, the Celts or ancient technology. One of the most exciting aspects of the course is the opportunity for students to take part on a project, led by a member of staff. This can be within the UK or further afield in Europe. It provides students with hands-on experience on what it is to be an archaeologist. They will use a range of sophisticated surveying methods and have the opportunity to use advanced techniques of scientific analysis. Students also go on two excavation or fieldwork placements, these may be around Britain or abroad to sites in Egypt or Crete! On these trips, students will excavate their first potsherd, stone tool or coin!
Studying archaeology does not restrict students simply to that field. The broad knowledge and skills acquired during an archaeology degree makes graduates employable in a range of careers. Graduates have gone on to work in local government, museums and other areas within education, but some also work in the financial sector, journalism and other managerial roles.
Within the field you could become an archaeologist, teacher or care of collections officer at a museum.
Cardiff offers both a BA and BSc in Archaeology meaning that you can choose to focus on either the humanities or scientific elements of the course. There is also a ‘Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology’ vocational course which focuses solely on conservation theory and practice.