Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at Magdalen

Archaeology has in the last century become a highly specialized field, and its fruitfulness to our understanding of the Classical world (though once fashionably questioned) is beyond any doubt. All recent advances in our understanding of the Mediterranean, from the Greek Bronze Age to the fall of the Roman Empire, depend largely on archaeological data. It is also true, however, that material evidence rarely combines seamlessly with other parts of the historical record. The resulting complexity not only poses many of the new cutting-edge questions in the subject, but also demands methods, experience and skills quite different from those provided by the more traditional Classics course (though there is of course some degree of overlap).

In the first year, there are two core papers (one on Greek, one on Roman civilization), and two further options, which provide a degree of specialization in both archaeology and ancient history, or to learn Latin or Greek. The main part of the course builds on the work done in the first year, with larger subjects combining archaeology and history and a much greater variety of options, ranging from the second millennium B.C. to early medieval Europe. Knowledge of Latin or Greek is not required, although there is the option to begin these languages from scratch or to continue with them up to intermediate level as part of the course.

There are two practical elements to the course – the construction of a site- or museum-report, and a fieldwork requirement, either on a University-sponsored excavation or any another equivalent project. There is generous University funding for fieldwork and travel, which the College supplements with a system of Travel/Research Grants that currently offer up to a maximum £1,050 over the length of an undergraduate’s course of study.

A considerable proportion of the tuition will be provided within College by the Tutor in Ancient History and by the Lecturer in Archaeology. One of the innovative features of the course is that the two core papers on Greek and Roman civilization which are taken in the first year are taught jointly in central University classes by archaeologists and historians. Tuition for other specialist options available is provided elsewhere in the University.