Develop your practical skills with archaeological fieldwork.
You'll gain hands-on experience as you encounter the past and explore exciting excavations.
During the field school, you will be introduced to the techniques of a dig, from recognising archaeological contexts and features on the site through to cleaning, excavating and recording them. You will gain direct experience in all aspects of the excavation, from recognising ancient artefacts to learning how to read the wider landscape.
As well as technical expertise, fieldwork will help you to develop transferable skills including observation and understanding, problem solving, team work and communication skills. You can tailor your experience during the excavation to suit your developing interests.
"This experience at the 'sharp end' of archaeology confirmed my love for this subject, and I felt I was part of a fascinating investigation into the past of our ancestors. Furthermore, I gained skills in [artefact] cleaning and recording, and improved my communication skills by creating friendships and assisting with numerous visits from the public."
Emily Channon – second-year archaeology student
You'll come away with a variety of skills and experiences while contributing to our growing list of finds and discoveries.
For example, you'll learn:
You'll also have training sessions on topics such as site etiquette, site and finds recording, care and use of archaeological equipment, and site photography. We offer a variety of specialist talks to discuss topics such as environmental work, pottery spot-dating, and post-excavation techniques.
Develop a comprehensive set of practical skills as you excavate, along with additional skills in activities around the trenches.
"The Field School enabled me to test my archaeological knowledge in a practical way and also build on the skills I had begun to develop before university."
Madeleine Firestone – second-year archaeology student
Enabled Fieldwork is a collaborative project between students and staff to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in our field trips and field schools.
The group is student-run and aims to help those who are worried about or struggling with fieldwork. It also seeks to embed diversity and inclusion principles in all fieldwork activities and practices.
The group works to positively articulate the challenges of inclusivity in practical disciplines, and to support students (and staff) of all abilities, genders and identities to voice concerns and find solutions together.
“I soon found that there is a role for everyone and that I could take part in the dig in my own way.”
Jenny Harris, BA Ancient History and Archaeology with Professional Placement
Students at Reading have had the opportunity to excavate two sites: an Anglo-Saxon monastery in Cookham, Berkshire and Dunyvaig medieval castle on the island of Islay, Scotland.
Initiated in 2021, this Field School is investigating the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery in the vicinity of Holy Trinity church in village of Cookham, Berkshire. Cookham forms one of a network of Anglo-Saxon monasteries established along the route of the River Thames and its tributaries, from Cricklade (Gloucestershire) in the west to Minster-in-Sheppey (Kent) in the east. Known primarily from historical sources, archaeological understanding of these riverine establishments is very poor, particularly so for the Middle Thames.
Dunyvaig Castle in Dun Naomhaig is best known as the naval fortress of the Lords of the Isles, the chiefs of the Clan MacDonald. Little is known about the castle, when it was first built and why in this location. Students from Reading have helped to uncover some of the mysteries posed by this striking historical monument.