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Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

This relatively new honours degree is for anyone interested in the challenge of studying the history, archaeology, and art of the classical world together and is designed to make study of the Greek and Roman world more widely accessible.

The course is concerned with the study of the societies and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world through material, visual, and written evidence and has at its centre the two dominant classical cultures of Greece and Rome. Among the central themes are the dialogue of the Greek and Roman cultures with other Mediterranean and European societies and the endurance and transformation of classical cultural forms in new contexts far beyond their points of origin. The extensive choice of further-subject options encourages wide-ranging study of neighbouring cultures, from the Bronze Age to the early Middle Ages, from the Near East to Northwest Europe.

The University's resources for this combined subject are excellent, in terms both of library facilities - much of the Sackler Library collections (especially those formerly belonging to the Ashmolean) are built around these two subjects - and in the range and number of Academics in the two fields. Keble College holds one of the best relevant undergraduate library collections in Oxford.

The course is primarily a historical and non-linguistic degree but one within which ancient languages can be used and learned. It is intended to serve those who wish to concentrate on a historical archaeology of the Greek and Roman world without at this stage focusing primarily on the ancient languages. The degree is unique in offering balanced and equal courses in both the archaeological and the historical registers of the classical Mediterranean cultures. A novel feature of the degree's teaching is classes led by two faculty members, one archaeologist and one historian, designed to ensure a thorough interdisciplinary integration in the papers that deliberately combine archaeological and historical questions and evidence - something of real value from the points of view both of the students and of the teachers.

Advantages of Keble

Keble has a strong tradition in Archaeology and Classics. We are fortunate to be directly connected with the Professorship of European Archaeology and with the Sinclair and Rachel Hood Lecturership in Aegean Prehistory. Keble is situated within easy reach of the Classics Centre, the Ashmolean Museum and the Institute of Archaeology, as well as the main subject libraries, including the Sackler Library which houses the Ashmolean research collection and the Classics Lending Library, which is exclusively for undergraduates. Over the years Keble has consistently accepted research students in archaeology, and now houses the largest community of archaeologists in Oxford.

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

Course structure

Up-to-date information on the course and how to apply can be found from the subject's page on the University admissions website. The degree course is divided into two parts: Honour Moderations, or ‘Mods’, which are examined at the end of the first year, and Honour School Examinations, ‘Finals’, which are examined at the end of the third year.  Mods comprises four papers: two core subjects (‘Aristocracy and Democracy in the Greek World, 550 - 450 BC’ and ‘Republic to Empire: Rome, 50 BC - AD 50’), plus two papers, one archaeological and one historical, from a list of special subjects.  In place of one of the special subjects students have the option to learn either ancient Greek or Latin from scratch.

In the second and third years, leading up to Finals, students build on the work done in Mods and expand their range in time and theme.  There are four core period subjects, two special subjects, and a site or museum report (equivalent to one paper).

The core subjects are chosen from a list of six, of which two are archaeological, two historical, and two integrate archaeology and history.  Different combinations of  four of these allow emphasis, according to preference, more on archaeology or on history, and more on Greek or Roman periods, while ensuring that breadth is maintained.

The two special subjects, one archaeological and one historical, are chosen from extensive lists of options whose range allows a student either to build up concentrated expertise in some central areas and periods or allows them to extend into earlier and later periods, such as the Bronze Age and Late Antiquity, and into non-classical cultures, such as Celtic, Islamic, and Byzantine.  One of the special subjects may be offered as a  thesis (max. 15,000 words) covering an agreed topic within the area of the subject.  And again in place of one special subject a student may take ancient Greek or Latin, either beginning the language or building further on a language begun in Mods.

The site or museum report (max. 15,000 words) is the result of work based upon the student’s own study of a site, of an excavation, or of a body of images or objects from one context or category of artefacts.

Students may also offer, if they wish, an additional, optional thesis on an agreed topic within the field of Ancient History & Classical Archaeology (again, max. 15,000 words).

Typical pattern of teaching

Teaching will be by a combination of tutorials, arranged by the College tutor, and lectures and classes arranged centrally and held mainly in the Classics Centre, the Institute of Archaeology, the Ashmolean Museum and the Cast Gallery. Most of Oxford's ancient historians and classical archaeologists work in these departments which are well-equipped with speciality libraries and world-class museum collections.

Qualities sought for entry

Written Work: Candidates are required to submit two recent marked essays written as part of their school or college course.

Interview: There will be no written test. In the interview, candidates may be shown pictures, objects, or other material for discussion. This will be to test relevant skills rather than specific knowledge, and no special preparation will be required.

For further information see the CAAH page of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.


Approximate yearly intake Keble: 2
Department Website Faculty of Classics


Via the College Office.


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

Dr Sarah Cohen
College Lecturer in Ancient History

In addition to the above, Keble has other Senior Members with archaeological or classical connections (although they do not normally offer tutorials to undergraduates reading Classical Archaeology and Ancient History).  Fellows with relevant interests are Chris Gosden, Professor of European Archaeology, who has published widely on issues of archaeology, anthropology and colonialism; Dr Lambros Malafouris with interests in cognition and material culture; Sir Barry Cunliffe FBA, Professor Emeritus of European Archaeology, who is well known for his publications on the relationship between temperate Europe and the Mediterranean world;(from October 2017) Ursula Coope, Professor of Ancient Philosophy, who has a special Artistotle; and Professor Dame Averil Cameron, Fellow emeritus and former Warden of Keble College, who is a leading scholar in Byzantine Studies.  Prof Tom Higham, Deputy Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Unit for archaeological dating is a Fellow by Special Election. Keble also has a Tutorial Fellow in Anthropology, Dr Morgan Clarke, who specialises in Islamic law and has a background in classics.