University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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Archaeologists employ material culture to study our human past. For students this is often an unfamiliar but exotic and exciting method of exploring bygone societies. The physical debris of the past is able to tell us much that the written evidence cannot. Most people were never able to document their own histories, and much of our human past unfolded before writing came in to use.

By looking at the things we leave behind, we can travel back into deep time, before written history, to uncover our very earliest ancestors. We can explore ancient civilisations across the world through their greatest monuments and the minutiae of their daily lives. The discipline also provides insights into historical periods and even the present day, providing a counter narrative to the written and spoken word.

Archaeology combines the arts and the sciences to uncover traces of the past and bring to life lost peoples and cultures. Using the broad skill base that a degree in archaeology provides, students can go on to a wide variety of jobs such as those in museums, universities and government and private heritage/environmental consultancy firms.

About the major

Archaeology is a dynamic discipline that has revolutionised our understanding of the human past. Evidence is continuously unearthed and reveals unexpected and exciting glimpses of ancient life. The archaeology major allows you to explore these vistas of human life and to learn how archaeologists bring life to past societies.

The archaeology major will provide you with an understanding of the history of humans in a variety of times and places, to give you an insight into long-term trends in human life. A major in Archaeology will also equip you with the intellectual and practical skills to gather, analyse and interpret primary archaeological evidence in order to answer questions about prehistoric and historic societies.

The archaeology major contains broad coverage of the nature of archaeological work, and students may undertake specialist training in one of three regional areas: Australia, the Mediterranean, and the Western and Central Asia. Practical field and laboratory methods are taught, and there are opportunities to participate in fieldwork units locally and around the world, as well as in one of our intensive Summer Schools in Athens or Rome.

Requirements for completion

A major in Archaeology requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Archaeology requires 36 credit points from this table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First year

Archaeology offers two consecutive foundation units, ARCO1000 Ancient People: Hunters and Farmers and ARCO1001 Civilisations of the Ancient World. These units will introduce you to the story of our early ancestors and how they spread across the globe. Journeying on through the appearance of the first farmers and villagers, you will then explore the emergence of the major civilisations of the Old World. In your tutorials, you will learn how to use archaeological evidence as a tool to reconstruct the human past. No prior knowledge of archaeology or ancient history is assumed. Together these units give you a strong foundation in archaeology.

Second year

Your choice of 2000 level units is critical in structuring your minor/major. When choosing your 2000 level units, you should consider what balance you want between:

  • A focus on regional units. We offer three regional streams: Australian, Western/Central Asian and Classical archaeology
  • A focus on archaeological skills-based study, for example field methods; field schools; archaeological principals and practice; and archaeological morphometry.

Students interested in specialising in the archaeology of a particular region should consider the following units:

  • Australia: ARCO2001, ARCO2002
  • Western/Central Asian: ARCO2003, ARCO2004, ARCO2005, ARCO2006
  • Classical: ARCO2007, ARCO2008, ARCO2201

If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in Archaeology with an average of 70% or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Archaeology with an average of 70% or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

The Archaeology Department offers an Honours program. Entry is in S1, there is no mid-year entry to the program. Students will carry out a sustained research project (ARCO4001 Large Archaeology Project), and are additionally required to take two of the seminar-based study units:

  • ARCO4102 Australian Archaeology Seminar
  • ARCO4103 Classical Archaeology Seminar
  • ARCO4104 West Asian Archaeology Seminar

The Department focuses in Honours research in its three specialist streams: Australian, Western/Central Asian and Classical archaeology. Honours projects on other archaeology subjects will be considered on an individual basis.

Advanced coursework

The requirements for advanced coursework in Archaeology are described in the degree resolutions for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies.

24-36 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2019.

Contact/further information

More information about the Archaeology program is available at:

For information on the Archaeology Major/minor see Prof. Fletcher.

For information on Honours see Prof. Helwing.

Pathways through the major

We offer three regional streams: Australian, Western/Central Asian and Classical archaeology. The Major takes a 2:2:4 pattern. Examples of pathways are provided for each of these streams:

Australian Archaeology
First Year: ARCO1000 and ARCO1001
Second Year: ARCO2001, ARCO2002
Third Year: ARCO3001, ARCO3002, ARCO3401, ARCO3402

Western Asia Archaeology
First Year: ARCO1000 and ARCO1001, or one of ARCO1000 and ARCO1001 plus 6 credit points of ancient history at the 1000 level
Second Year: ARCO2003 and ARCO2005, or ARCO2004 and ARCO2006
Third Year: ARCO3004 and ARCO3005 and ARCO3005 or ARCO3006, and ARCO3403

Classical Archaeology
First Year: ARCO1000 and ARCO1001, , or one of ARCO1000 and ARCO1001 plus 6 credit points of ancient history at the 1000 level
Second Year: ARCO2007 and ARCO2008 or ARCO2201
Third Year: ARCO3008 and ARCO3011 and ARCO3012, plus ARCO3403

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of how archaeology is employed in a wide variety of spatial and temporal contexts to illuminate the human past and present.
  2. Demonstrate mastery of archaeological interpretation, and an ability to collate, analyse and interpret material evidence employing dedicated methods and theoretical frameworks.
  3. Construct and comprehend research designs that solve archaeological problems.
  4. Demonstrate region specific knowledge in the material culture of Australia, Western Asia, and/or the Classical world.
  5. Demonstrate the capacity to read and critically evaluate relevant scholarship.
  6. Effectively communicate their findings in both written and spoken English.
  7. Apply research skills to acquire knowledge and understanding in interdisciplinary contexts.
  8. Apply the knowledge and insights of Archaeology to issues encountered in an interdisciplinary context.