Why Archaeology at Durham?
The Department is one of the most highly-rated, largest, and best equipped in the country. Its excellent facilities include laboratories for archaeological chemistry, conservation, environmental archaeology, human osteology and luminescence, as well as teaching laboratories, photographic studio, computer room and a common room.
Our research, teaching and reputation are world-class: we are regularly ranked one of the top Archaeology departments in the UK (e.g. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, The Guardian University Guide 2019, Complete University Guide 2020) and one of the top six globally (World University QS rankings 2019). Our expertise covers a broad chronological and geographical span, from the Palaeolithic to the present-day, and from South Asia to the Mediterranean, Europe and the British Isles, and we run fieldwork projects across the world. We have a range of cutting-edge laboratories, extensive commercial infrastructure and a network of heritage-sector collaborators to match. Our staff are passionate about sharing their expertise with our students, and for the benefit of wider society.
Archaeology has been taught here since 1931 and the Department now has one of the largest teaching groups in the UK, totalling 31 full-time members of teaching staff, as well as research staff working on a variety of archaeological projects. Equally, we host 25 postdoctoral researchers and over 100 research postgraduates that will guide you through your degree at Durham. Studying here you will be taught by experts in the field of archaeology, whose interests cover World, European and British archaeology from the last Ice Age to the post-Medieval period. This wide range of expertise is reflected in the degree structure where, in the second and third levels, you can choose from a wide range of optional modules and dissertation topics which allow you to follow a programme of study designed to suit your individual interests and needs
Archaeology is the study of humanity from its evolutionary origins in Africa over 5 million years ago to the present day. It explores and examines the remains of the past, enabling new local and global histories to be written. Archaeology encompasses many sciences, social sciences, and humanities, the subject is very broad and as such, is perfect for all rounders and archaeology enthusiasts. You will have the chance to study a wide range of topics from human origins to the Industrial Revolution, from late-medieval Britain to ancient India, or to select modules on a more specialised basis. Your teachers will be the leaders in their fields, the authors of the most widely used archaeology textbooks, and the editors of the major journals. The subject is adapted constantly to include new discoveries and the development of innovative techniques, with Durham researchers at the forefront of many of these innovations.
During your time with us you will learn about fieldwork, finds, historic buildings, scientific methods, archaeological theories, computer techniques and how they all help us to understand the past. At the end of your first and second years, you will have the opportunity to undertake work placements on real excavations or work in one of our archaeological science laboratories.
The graduate job market is fiercely competitive, but an Archaeology degree from Durham gives our graduates an edge over all others. Whether you are interested in a career specific to archaeology or want to climb a different ladder, such as media, finance, law, or management, employers in all industries value our graduates because of their good academic training, their broad perspective and attention to detail, as well as their well developed practical skills in organisation, teamwork and leadership, fieldwork, presentation and computing. Durham University was recently ranked in the top 25 worldwide by employers for the quality of its graduates and our department with an astounding 90% of our recent graduates in employment or further study six months after leaving Durham. Such high figures reflect the transferable skills you can learn by studying Archaeology here at Durham, but also the confidence you will gain, allowing you to shape your own future.
Find out more about career options and employability.
We have a world-class suite of archaeological teaching and research laboratories, all in-house in the Dawson building. Here students can work with and learn about the materials that interest them most -- everything from pottery, glass, and stone tools to human bones, animal bones, plant remains, archaeological sediments, ancient DNA, and other biomolecules. We also have state-of-the-art computing facilities for students who want to specialise in digital applications in archaeology. If you want to specialise in a particular archaeological material, archaeological science, or digital applications, you will probably use these laboratories on a daily basis when doing research for your own dissertation.
Durham is home to one of only three commercial archaeology units based in university departments left in the UK, which means that you will have experts on hand for your fieldwork queries. We have relationships with the University Museums: Palace Green and The Oriental Museum. The Museum is the venue for a number of practical classes and provides opportunities for students to gain experience of museum work. The Oriental Museum has one of the finest art and archaeology collections in the UK outside of London. These range from prehistoric Egypt and China to the work of living artists. The Museum opened in 1960 and also serves as a teaching and research resource used by university staff and students as well as researchers throughout the world.
We have close links with the main professional archaeological organisations in the region and elsewhere in the British Isles such as The National Trust, National Geographic, Historic Scotland, and the British Museum.
Our department is a diverse group of staff and students come from countries all around the world to study archaeology at Durham. We pride ourselves on being a friendly, welcoming, and inclusive place to study and work.
The Durham Archaeological Society is run by students and this dedicated team organise day trips to historical monuments and sites, visits to museum collections, presentations by eminent archaeologists, and Indiana Jones themed socials! What’s more, Arch Soc will send you information on current excavations (run by the department and externally) so that you have up-to-date information on the best work experience placements available to you.