BA Archaeology and Anthropology
Explore humanity from its earliest origins to the cultures and societies of today with our BA Archaeology and Anthropology degree.
The University of Reading is in the top 100 in the world for Archaeology (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023, Archaeology. The University of Reading is ranked 51-100 in the world and is the joint 9th highest placed UK university) and 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 Research Excellence Framework 2021), and we achieved the highest score for student satisfaction in the UK in 2022.
This joint honours course combines archaeology’s examination of material evidence from our past and present with anthropology’s focus on human development and contemporary cultures and societies. Studying these two disciplines together allows you insight and understanding of what it means to be human.
This understanding will be crucial in addressing issues critical to our shared global future, including:
- the relationship between humans and environmental change
- inequality, migration and identity
- population growth and development
- human diets and health
- politics, economics and sustainability.
By examining human development, behaviour and different cultures, you will better understand the roots of these issues, and learn how other societies have tackled comparable problems – and how contemporary societies are addressing them now.
Using methodological approaches from the sciences, social sciences and humanities, you will examine the diversity of human experience. You will learn about the biological evolution of our earliest ancestors, the pre-historical and historical development of different cultures, and present-day ways of life and social issues.
During your studies you will analyse:
- material culture
- biological evidence
- ethnographic evidence
- theoretical and empirical perspectives from the past and present.
Your studies in the Department of Archaeology will encompass ethnographic approaches and case studies, and the study of social and scientific archaeology, including:
- the investigation of artefacts recovered through excavation
- the study of human bones (including osteology and palaeopathology)
- the study of plant and animal remains
- human-environment interaction
- how climate and environmental change have affected lives past and present
- religious, social, economic and political diversity around the world.
On this course you will learn through a combination of field classes and fieldwork projects, lectures and seminars, laboratory and other practical work, and placements.
Depending on your module choices, methods of assessment can range from fieldwork diaries and laboratory-based practical tests to article critiques and presentations.
Find out more about this programme by reading our story about Mia Dare, a first-year BA Archaeology and Anthropology student who's gaining new perspectives on our world while studying at Reading.
Your learning environment
You will work with academics from our Department of Archaeology – and other experts from our School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science – who are passionate about reconstructing our past to influence our future. For example,
- Dr Mary Lewis analyses skeletal remains to uncover the health of past peoples
- Professor Hella Eckardt is proving Britain’s long history of diversity
- Dr Aleks Pluskowski is using environmental archaeology to provide a different perspective on the impact of religious change
- Dr Alanna Cant studies how people make use of culture and the past in today’s world.
Our research directly informs what you learn at Reading, and it is highly regarded in the field: 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).
We provide a welcoming, friendly community and lively student-led societies, like RUined (Reading University Archaeology Society), offer a variety of social events and activities. Our staff are approachable and aim to create a supportive learning environment, and 100% of students in the Department of Archaeology said that our teaching staff were good or very good at explaining things (National Student Survey, 2023).
You will gain direct, hands-on experience in all aspects of an archaeological excavation through your time with the Archaeology Field School (currently run at Silchester Roman Town and Dunyvaig Castle on Islay). You will also be encouraged to get involved in other archaeological excavations in the UK and abroad, such as at prehistoric monuments, Roman cities, and medieval castles.
In addition to excavation skills, you will also learn about surveying, GIS (geographical information systems) mapping, planning, and finds processing.
Specialist fieldwork equipment will enrich and support your learning, as will access to our extensive collections of artefacts, biological and geological specimens, analytical IT software facilities, and diverse suite of laboratories. You will also have access to our three on-site museums and the University’s special collections.
Through practical work you will be able to experience the excitement of discovery and have the chance to make a direct contribution through the creation of new archaeological and anthropological knowledge.
Flexible study options
Tailor your degree to your interests with our range of optional modules and flexible pathway structure. For example, you can pursue pathways in:
- cultural diversity
- global development, inequality and sustainable living
- biological and evolutionary anthropology
- environmental and climatic change
- material culture and heritage.
You can also choose to study this course over four years to include a study year abroad, a professional placement, or a combination of both:
- BA Archaeology and Anthropology with Study Year Abroad
- BA Archaeology and Anthropology with Professional Placement
Placements and Study Abroad
As part of the three-year BA Archaeology and Anthropology degree, you will be encouraged to undertake short placements with local and regional employers to help develop your professional skills and boost your employability.
You can also study abroad for a semester at one of our partner universities. These currently include universities in Europe (for example, the University of Malta, and Uppsala in Sweden) and as far afield as Australia and the USA.