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Archaeology

Fieldwork

A vital aspect enabling archaeologists to develop their understanding of past societies at a detailed level.

The thought of fieldwork may bring to mind images of trowelling away in trenches. In reality, it doesn't simply mean excavation.

Fieldwork includes a wide range of reconnaissance methods, from geophysics, to building surveys, dealing with artefacts, archaeological photography, scale drawing and much more.

Methodology

We use a range of fieldwork methods that involve working with other people, including oral history, ethnoarchaeology, ethnography and visitor surveys. As a result, participating in archaeological fieldwork will provide you with a wide range of skills, most of which are also transferrable to other professions.

Preparatory training

You will be introduced to fieldwork from the moment you start your degree in the course “Introduction to Archaeological Practice”. This core fieldwork training will continue throughout your degree in the courses “Fieldwork, Practice and Interpretation”, in the second year, and “Theory and Practice in Archaeology”, in the third year.

At each level you will receive training in how to undertake vital archaeological field techniques, from both departmental staff and experts in the field. You will also develop a critical understanding of these techniques, and of the archaeological process more broadly, in relation to theoretical issues taught in other courses.

Female student smiling at camera during an archaeological dig

Practical experience

During term time, these courses will be delivered through lectures, field trips and lab practicals. In the summer months you will then have the opportunity to attend a range of different archaeological projects where you will receive further training in fieldwork. This training in the field will enable you to set what you have learnt throughout the year into a more practical context.

The formal requirement for single honours students is to undertake two weeks of fieldwork at the end of the first and second years of the degree. Joint honours students are only required to undertake two weeks of fieldwork in total over the duration of their degree.

However joint honours students are welcome to undertake the same amount of training as single honours students if they wish. Not only will your fieldwork be an important opportunity to learn archaeological field skills in practice, you will also be able to develop a wide range of transferrable skills. Fieldwork is also a fantastic opportunity to get to know staff and students from the department and to meet experts who work in other areas of the archaeological profession.

Recent fieldwork opportunities

  • Kissonerga-Skalia, Cyprus: Excavations at the Early / Middle Bronze Age settlement of Kissonerga-Skalia in the west of Cyprus
  • Domuztepe, Turkey: Excavations of the 20ha 7th and 6th millennium site of Domuztepe in south-east Turkey
  • Rapa Nui (Easter Island), South Pacific: Investigations into monumentality, the process of quarrying and 'landscapes of construction'
  • Ardnamurchan, UK: Investigations into the Neolithic Chambered tomb of Cladh Aindries and the valley in which it is located, on the beautiful Ardnamurchan Peninsula, western Scotland
  • Vale of Pickering, UK: Excavations of the earliest Mesolithic structures in Britain on the edge of ancient Lake Flixton

Other fieldwork opportunities attended by students included placements at the Manchester Museum, post-excavation lab analysis within the department, and excavation on external projects such as the York Archaeological Trust Dig Hungate project.

Excavation and survey work

In previous years departmental staff have also directed excavation and survey work at:

  • Stonehenge
  • Neolithic settlements and monuments on Orkney,
  • Neolithic stone circle of Calanais (Callanish), Lewis, Outer Hebrides,
  • Iron Age sites in the Yorkshire Wolds,
  • 19th century settlements at Alderley Edge, Cheshire,
  • Students from the University of Manchester have had the opportunity to work on all of these projects.