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Develop your practical skills with archaeological fieldwork.

You'll gain hands-on experience as you encounter the past and explore exciting excavations.

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What to expect

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


Learn and discover

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:

  • knowledge of archaeological field techniques and site recording methods
  • the ability to distinguish between individual archaeological contexts prior to excavation
  • the ability to record archaeological contexts (in both written and drawn form)
  • surveying skills
  • environmental sampling
  • on-site handling and processing of artefacts
  • how to work as part of a team.

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.

Practical skills

Develop a comprehensive set of practical skills as you excavate, along with additional skills in activities around the trenches.

  • In the finds hut
    Wash, dry and sort general finds, treat small finds with specialist care, mark pots, make entries in the finds book, bag and identify finds.
  • In the environmental/science area
    Fill in environmental sample sheets, float samples, sort residues, identify finds and their reintroduction back into the finds system.
  • In the computer hut
    Practice entering records onto the site database.
  • In the visitors' area
    Give general site tours to visitors, prepare Open Day displays and exhibitions, and work with visiting schools.

"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

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.


Field school excavations

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.

Cookham

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.

Learn more about Cookham

Islay

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.

Find out more about the Dunyvaig project

Our research

The University of Reading is ranked 1st in the UK for research quality and research outputs in Archaeology (Times Higher Education Institutions Ranked by Subject, based on its analysis of the latest REF 2021).
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Meet the team

Our academics have a range of expertise in the field of archaeology. They are passionate about sharing their knowledge through teaching, fieldwork and world-renowned research.
URE museum of Greek Archaeology

Our facilities

Learn about our extensive archaeology facilities, from purpose-built teaching laboratories to unique on-campus museums.
Athena SWAN Silver Award