Archaeology covers a huge range of topics, spanning the evolution of humans through the development of farming, ancient civilisations and world empires, as well as the role of material culture in human life and of heritage in modern societies. The Archaeology Department at Cambridge is the oldest of its kind in the UK, and along with the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge is one of the largest centres of archaeological research in Britain. Students also benefit from hands-on access to world-class collections in Cambridge’s many museums, libraries and research centres.
Students can follow several streams – Archaeology (covering all world cultures), Biological Anthropology (humans in an evolutionary, ecological and biological perspective), Egyptology and Assyriology (the languages and cultures of two ancient civilisations). Whatever interests you pursue and develop, Archaeology will refine your existing skills and build new ones, making you an informed and intelligent analyst of past societies and cultures, as well as a critical thinker, and an articulate presenter and writer of your ideas.
Archaeology at King's
King’s has a rich tradition as one of the major Colleges for ‘Arch and Anth’, and the new course in Archaeology continues that spirit of broad enquiry into the human past. Prominent alumni of King's have included Sir John Marshall, a pioneer in the archaeology of India, and Charles McBurney, a leading figure in development of archaeology in Africa.
More recently, the College has had particular research strengths in human evolution and ecology, and in the African origins of humanity. The Director of Studies in Archaeology at King's is Robert Foley, who is Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies. King’s is also very strong in Social Anthropology, the study of contemporary human cultures, societies and behaviour, and there are opportunities to study this alongside archaeology and biological anthropology.
The College is located close to the Archaeology Department as well as the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which holds many open sessions for Archaeology students throughout the year. In addition, students have easy access to the Haddon Library of Archaeology & Anthropology and Cambridge University Library just a few minutes walk away.
Fellows at King's in Archaeology and related subjects:
Applying for Archaeology at King's
We welcome applications from suitably qualified students at any kind of school, all over the world.
To apply to study Archaeology at King’s, you do not need to have studied any particular subjects at school. While we certainly welcome applicants who have done A-Level Archaeology or equivalent, this is by no means necessary or expected.
What we look for in applicants is ability, motivation, and intellectual curiosity; because Archaeology is such a broad field, we welcome applications from those who have backgrounds in everything from History to Biology, English to Physics, Philosophy to Geography.
Various things are useful but not required: knowledge of history, current and international affairs, philosophy, economics, or biology; also helpful is aptitude with languages or mathematics. We will be impressed if you have had a sustained interest in archaeology or a related discipline (have you read any anthropology books, participated in an archaeological dig, etc?), but we also welcome students who are just developing a new interest. All the first-year courses start without assuming prior knowledge.
There are no pre-registration required assessments for applicants to Archaeology at King's, but students who are invited for interview in Archaeology are asked to take the Cambridge College-registered Admissions Assessment, which lasts one hour. You do not need to register for this assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview. Your performance in the Archaeology Cambridge College-registered Admissions Assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.
Students are required to submit one piece of written work as part of their application to King's. Written work should be in essay format (not science coursework or timed exam) with a word limit of up to 1500 words (can be an extract from an EPQ).
Most (but not all) candidates are invited for two interviews.
Reading, Resources and Events
Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include: Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, Archaeology / Biological Anthropology Open Days, CU Masterclasses, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.