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Archaeology & Anthropology

Archaeology and Anthropology is an exacting option combining as it does the approaches of the arts with those of the sciences. Oxford has long been a leading centre for research and teaching in archaeology and anthropology, being associated with some of the most famous excavations and museum collections in the world, and since 1992 it has been possible to study both subjects together for a first (BA) degree. It will, in the foreseeable future, remain a small school by Oxford standards. The range of facilities offered by Oxford in Archaeology and Anthropology cannot be surpassed by any other British university and will ensure that your time will be as intellectually exciting as it is demanding.

Advantages of Keble

Keble admits four undergraduates per year for Archaeology and Anthropology. No College is better resourced than Keble when it comes to teaching the degree, and none is better situated for the important departments, libraries and museums. There are currently five fellows, including tutorial fellows in Archaeology and Social Anthropology and a research fellow whose interests and teaching span archaeology and cognitive anthropology.  Keble is one of only two Colleges to have teaching fellows in both parts of the course. The Professor of European Archaeology, Chris Gosden, is at Keble.  These fellows are joined by college lecturers to teach selected topics.

The main centres where archaeology and anthropology are taught are no more than five minutes away: these include  the main subject libraries  - the Balfour Library at the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Sackler Library (incorporating the Ashmolean Library as well as other important collections), and the Tyler Library at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology.  The Ashmolean Museum is close by. The college’s own library (open 24/7) is also very well-stocked.

Students studying Archaeology and Anthropology in Keble are closely associated with undergraduates in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History and Human Sciences. This subject family creates a strong intellectual community, including postgraduates. In fact Keble is home to the single largest college community of archaeologists in Oxford (undergraduate, graduate students and senior members), which makes it a particularly interesting and friendly place to work and study the subject.  Through the Creativity cluster of the College’s Advanced Study Centre, there are regular lectures and seminars by notable visiting academics. Recent speakers included Ian Hodder, Maurice Bloch and Richard Sennett.

There is a dedicated scholarship, the Owens Travelling Scholarship, which funds undergraduate travel related to classical archaeology and history during the vacations.

Course structure

Complete and up-to-date information on the course is available from the subject's page on the University undergraduate admissions website. The degree course is divided into two parts: Honour Moderations, which are examined at the end of the first year, and Final Honours which are examined at the end of the third year.  Honour Moderations includes four papers:

  • Introduction to World Archaeology
  • Introduction to Anthropological Theory
  • Perspectives on Human Evolution
  • The Nature of Archaeological Enquiry

In the second and third years the courses are constructed on an interdisciplinary basis. The complementary nature of the relationship between anthropology and archaeology is stressed: in particular the ways in which archaeological data can extend the period of anthropological analysis and open up new problems, and the way in which anthropological data can be used as a resource for interpreting the past. In many areas, such as the analysis of material culture and the environmental and biological bases of human existence, archaeology and anthropology share similar methods and theoretical frameworks. The core papers are:

  1. Social Analysis and Interpretation
  2. Cultural Representation, Beliefs and Practices
  3. Landscape & Ecology
  4. Urbanisation and Change in Complex Societies

In addition, each student must take three optional papers chosen from a very wide range offered in archaeology and anthropology, as well as preparing a dissertation. The range of possible options includes regional studies in both archaeology and anthropology such as the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age (state formation, feasting, maritime trade), Byzantium, the transition from Antiquity to the Middle ages, Maritime South East Asia (social organisation, religion and art), Tibet and the Himalaya and Lowland South America (world view and political organisation); thematic topics such as studies of gender, visual anthropology, more biologically orientated topics such as primate behaviour, human evolution and medical anthropology, and also themes from world archaeology such as the spread of farming in Africa, and the formation of the Islamic World.

Typical pattern of teaching

Teaching is by a combination of tutorials, lectures and practical classes based in centres which include: the Institute of Archaeology, the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, and the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and History of Art (RLAHA). Most of Oxford's archaeologists and anthropologists work in these departments, which are well-equipped with speciality libraries, collections, laboratories and computing resources.

Qualities sought for entry

Few potential candidates will have had any significant exposure to either archaeology or anthropology at pre-university level. For this reason admission is not restricted to any particular set of A-level subjects. A demonstrable enthusiasm for archaeology and/or anthropology is essential.

Applications from both pre- and post-A level candidates are welcome, and from those taking non-A level qualifications. Some general knowledge of archaeology and anthropology will be helpful.

For further information see the selection criteria on the School of Archaeology website and the Archaeology and Anthropology  page of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.


Approximate yearly intake Keble: 4
Department Website School of Archaeology


Via the College Office.


Dr Lisa Bendall, PhD, MPhil, MA, Sinclair and Rachel Hood Lecturer in Aegean Prehistory

Dr Morgan Clarke, MA, MPhil, DPhil, University Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Prof Chris Gosden, PhD, Litt D, FSA, FBA, CBE, Professor of European Archaeology

Prof Tom Higham, DPhil, MA, Deputy Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit

Dr Lambros Malafouris, MA, MPhil, PhD