University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 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 archaeology and heritage 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 our ancient past. The archaeology major allows you to explore these vistas of human history and to learn how archaeologists bring to life 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 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 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.

Requirements for completion

The Archaeology major and minor requirements are listed in the Archaeology unit of study table.


Currently NSW state authorities (for example the NSW Code of Practice for Archaeological Investigation and Heritage Council of New South Wales) and potential employers indicate that a Bachelors Degree with Honours in Archaeology is the preferred minimal qualification to undertake archaeological investigations in NSW.

The Archaeology Department offers an Honours program. Entry is in Semster 1. There is no mid-year entry to the program. Students will carry out a sustained research project (ARCO4001 Large Archaeology Project), and are required to take two of the seminar-based study units:

  • ARCO4104 Archaeological Research Themes
  • ARCO4105 Archaeological Research Approaches

Honours admission requirements
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 after 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.
- Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Archaeology honours units of study page.

Advanced Coursework

How do the perspectives you bring from your studies in History, Philosophy, Gender and Cultural Studies, Archaeology and Ancient History uniquely frame and explain a contemporary issue? The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) will enhance the skills and capabilities students have acquired over the course of majors undertaken within the School’s diverse departments. Students will learn how to apply research training from SOPHI’s unique disciplines, develop an interdisciplinary capacity with methodology, pose problems and consider their solutions in scenarios sourced from History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Ancient History, or Gender and Cultural Studies. Emphasis is placed on developing the ability to apply methods of philosophical, historical, cultural, gender or archaeological inquiry to contemporary problem-solving and to communicate findings to non-academic and culturally diverse audiences via emerging digital media.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Archaeology advanced coursework units of study page.

Contact and further information

More information and current contact details for Academic Coordinators may be found at the
Department of Archaeology website.

The Department of Archaeology is administered by the the School of Language and Cultures.

Example pathways

We recommend three regional streams: Australian, Western/Central Asian and Classical archaeology, but students may vary their Second and Third Year unit choices as they wish. The Major takes a 2:2:4 pattern. Examples of pathways are provided for each of these streams:

Australian Archaeology
First Year: ARCO1000 Ancient People: Hunters and Farmers and ARCO1001 Civilisations of the Ancient World
Second Year: ARCO2001 Ancient Australia: Diverse adaptations and ARCO2002 Ancient Australia: shape and connection
Third Year: ARCO3002 Australian Forager Economies and ARCO3401 Australian Lithic Technology (Project 1) and ARCO3402 Archaeozoology (Project 2), ARCO3404 Archaeological Fieldwork

Western Asia Archaeology
First Year: ARCO1000 Ancient People: Hunters and Farmers and ARCO1001 Civilisations of the Ancient World
Second Year: ARCO2005 and ARCO2105 Ancient Mobility to Modern Megalopolis
Third Year: ARCO3003 War and Peace in Early West Asia, ARCO3004 Art of Ancient West Asia, ARCO3005 Exploring the Silk Road and ARCO3006 Ancient China Unearthed

Classical Archaeology
First Year: ARCO1000 Ancient People: Hunters and Farmers and ARCO1001 Civilisations of the Ancient World
Second Year: ARCO2007 Ancient Greece and ARCO2008 Ancient Italy: Etruscans and Romans
Third Year: ARCO3007 Minoans and Mycenaeans, ARCO3008 At Home in Ancient Greece, ARCO3011 Pompeii and Herculaneum, ARCO3012 The Archaeology of South Italy