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Wikipedia entry for Archaeology (Degree)

What is archaeology?

“What can you see?”…“Wonderful things.” - Howard Carter, upon opening the tomb of Tutankhamen

Archaeology as a discipline is plagued by misconceptions, stereotypes and half-truths (some of which contain grains of accuracy, others which do not). Archaeology can quite simply be defined as the study of the human past through material remains. It is not; I repeat, not, anything to do with Indiana Jones. Also, most archaeologists would probably happily stick a trowel in your face in you even mention Time Team (we all watch it though, of course).

Archaeology developed as a science during the 19th and 20th centuries having previously been the hobby of eager amateurs, antiquarian societies and ‘grave robbers’. Out of the arbitrary nature of earlier forms of ‘archaeology’ (which often served little other purpose than to confirm/reject the validity of classical literature and Biblical legend) came the modern and rapidly changing field of archaeology today. Such pioneering advances in other fields have served to push the boundaries within archaeology and thus providing it with a formidable set of ‘tools’ with which to interpret the broad varieties of human past and interaction. Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geography and Christen Thomsen’s Three Age System have each had their particular impact on archaeology, with modern advances including Dendrochronology, Radiocarbon dating and Landscape archaeology.

Yet archaeology is also the study of change. It is not merely enough to collect and to protect ancient and historical environments and artifacts if we cannot understand their meaning and the meaning of them in the greater world. Similarly, archaeology must function in tandem with other social/actual sciences in order to construct the most appropriate and fitting interpretation of the past. It is not enough to speculate; archaeology must provide appropriate models and frameworks in order to interpret the past.



Archaeology is mainly a subject studied at university, though it is possible to study it at A Level

A Level

Archaeology A Level follows the main structure of having AS and A2 sections.


Many universities offer Archaeology. Check out the Archaeology Degree page.

If you have a question about applying for archaeology or what archaeology degrees are all about, and cannot find an answer here, why not ask it on the forums?

Personal Statements

Read our sample personal statements for archaeology courses to see what other people have written. Please note our Personal Statements of a range of different qualities. Some are very good and some of not such a good standard. Please do not copy any as your own. To get advice after writing your personal statement, please visit the PS Helper section.

Study Help

Revision notes

Get help with your exam preparation with our archaeology revision notes.

Got a question about your archaeology work? Ask for help and advice on the forums.

Also See

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