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Archaeology and Anthropology

This course will be replaced by Human, Social and Political Sciences from 2013 entry onwards.

Welcome to the Archaeology and Anthropology subject page at King’s! Here you will find an overview of the Cambridge course, information about studying Arch & Anth at King's, the fellows who teach and research here, and what will happen when you apply.

Arch & Anth at Cambridge

At Cambridge, the three different subjects of Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology and Archaeology are grouped together in one Faculty. Although they share a one-year foundation course (Part I), the Cambridge structure allows students who are interested in any one of these subjects to spend the whole of the second and third years of their degree specializing in their chosen field. So students studying any of these subjects at Cambridge may reach an unrivalled level of expertise and depth of knowledge. This enables many of our students to proceed directly to further research, or to other work where their expertise is directly relevant, such as in international organizations, development and other NGOs, environmental protection, or conservation.

For details of the courses see:

Arch & Anth at King’s

Arch & Anth at King’s has a very distinguished tradition, especially in social anthropology. Past Fellows have included Meyer Fortes, one of the great founders of British social anthropology who conducted research among the Tallensi and Ashanti peoples in West Africa; Sir Edmund Leach, who conducted fieldwork in Iraq, Burma, and Sri Lanka, was Provost of the College and a well-known public intellectual in his time; Stanley Tambiah, whose research was in Thailand and also his native Sri Lanka, and went on from King’s to be one of the most influential anthropologists of his generation, at Harvard University; and Ernest Gellner, originally a philosopher but a convert to anthropology, and a leading thinker on the nature of modernity, Islam, nationalism, Soviet and other socialist societies, and the preconditions of liberty in civil society.

A remarkable number of the leading anthropologists in universities throughout the world have been educated at King’s. Prominent archaeologist Kingsmen have included Sir John Marshall, a pioneer in the archaeology of India, and Charles McBurney, who was a Fellow of King’s in the 1940s, and a leading figure in development of archaeology in Africa.

The College remains strongly committed to these subjects, and we always have a good, strong cohort of research students in the College, drawn from a very wide range of countries, especially in social anthropology. During term we have regular meetings, outside the formal course curricula, that bring together undergraduates, graduate students, and Fellows for informal discussion, film viewings, and so on.

Fellows in Arch & Anth

Robert Foley

Robert Foley (Biological Anthropology) is concerned with understanding the pattern of human evolution in terms of evolutionary processes. At one level this relates specifically to the evolution of adaptive behaviours and morphologies during the course of human evolution, in relation to environmental and socioecological context of fossil hominins. At another level it is concerned with the integration of adaptive microevolutionary processes with macroevolutionary patterns (speciation, diversity and extinction). This work has focused on evolutionary ecology, social evolution, community ecology and biogeography. While much of this work has been concerned with the whole range of human evolution since the divergence from the African apes, more recently it has been developed in relation to modern human evolution and diversity.

Adam Higazi

Adam Higazi (African Studies) studies Northern Nigerian history, politics and ethnography.

Caroline Humphrey

Caroline Humphrey (Social Anthropology; Director of Studies) has carried out research in Siberia and Mongolia in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, and has also worked in India, Nepal and China (Inner Mongolia and Manchuria). Her research interests include shamanism and Buddhism; theories of ritual; socialist/ post-socialist economy and society; political forms; and the political imagination in east Asia. Her current research concerns the post-socialist city, cosmopolitanism and migration.

James Laidlaw

James Laidlaw (Social Anthropology; Director of Studies) has worked in south Asia (India) and east Asia (Taiwan and Inner Mongolia). His interests include the anthropological study and comparison of the different systems of morality throughout the world, and so the possibilities of cooperation between anthropology and moral philosophy; and also religion and ritual, with special interest in the Asian religions of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism; and theoretical approaches to religion including cognitive psychology. He is currently beginning a project on new forms of meditation and other practices of self-formation and self-cultivation in Buddhism across Asia.

Alan Macfarlane

Alan Macfarlane (Anthropological Science) is an anthropologist and historian who has worked on England, Nepal, Japan and China. He has focused on a comparative study of the origins and nature of the modern world.

Perveez Mody

Perveez Mody (Social Anthropology) works on the anthropology of South Asia, especially India. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi, on the phenomenon of love marriage in India, and is interested in the politics of castes and "communities" in India, including religious nationalism, in changes in South Asian kinship, marriage and urban sexuality (sexual relations, conjugality, gender and the family), law and human rights and the ways in which the modern state transforms and bears witness to intimate relations such as those expressed in a love-marriage. Her current work concerns an ethnography of South Asian marriage and kinship amongst two ethno-religious groups in East London, including the complex phenomena often referred to as ‘forced marriage’.

Anastasia Piliavsky

Anastasia Piliavsky (Social Anthropology) studies South Asia. She is currently interested in donor-servant (or ‘patron-client’) relations, the pre-colonial history of ‘criminal castes’, gossip and secrecy, the history and ethnography of policing and judicial institutions, as well as the culture of politics in South Asia today.

To apply to study Arch & Anth

To apply to study Arch & Anth at King’s, you do not need to have studied any particular subjects at school. A background in either sciences, or humanities, or a combination of both will do equally well. We have no preference for school qualifications in archaeology or anthropology, which will in any case be very different from what is studied here. We will look with interest at any good set of strong academic results.

Various things are useful but not required: knowledge of history, current and international affairs, philosophy, economics, and/or biology; also helpful is aptitude with languages and/or mathematics. We will be impressed if you have had a sustained interest in one or other of the subjects (have you read any anthropology books, participated in an archaeological dig, etc?), but we also welcome students who are just developing a new interest, and it is by no means necessary to be equally interested in all three subjects. Many students with a passionate interest in, say, social anthropology, have never thought much about genetics or evolution at all. All the first-year courses begin assuming no prior knowledge, and for their second and third years students generally study just one of the three subjects exclusively.

There is considerable overlap between the first year in Arch and Anth and the first year in Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies (PPSIS). Arch & Anth students may take a PPSIS paper in politics, sociology, or social psychology, and most PPSIS students take social anthropology; so most years some students in King’s also change into social anthropology, having started in another course such as PPSIS, and this we actively welcome.

The numbers admitted in Arch & Anth vary from year to year, but we rarely admit fewer than two or more than six undergraduates.

Details of the admissions process are given on the How to apply page. For Arch & Anth candidates, a short reading list will be provided once you have applied through UCAS. Most applicants will be asked to come to Cambridge for an interview with two Fellows, and at that time they will also sit a written test. The questions in the test are general and require no specific reading or preparation. Details of standard offer levels are given in the Entrance requirements.

Further Information

Subjects | Undergraduate study