Archaeology Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of the ancient and recent human past through material remains. Archaeology analyzes the physical remains of the past in pursuit of a comprehensive understanding of human culture.

These remains can be any objects that people created, modified, or used. Portable remains are usually called artifacts. Archaeologists use artifacts and features to learn how people lived in specific times and places.

The word “archaeology” comes from the Greek word “arkhaios,” which means “ancient.”

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Archaeology in the following subject areas:

  • Archaeology – The course aims to equip participants with a sound knowledge of Ireland’s archaeological heritage from the earliest settlers to the medieval period.
  • World Archaeology – Explore the human past across the globe, from the last Ice Age to the eighteenth century, gaining a deep understanding of cultural and social development.
  • Archaeology of Ireland – The Diploma in Irish Archaeology (Online) is aimed at anyone with an interest in the past, in archaeology, and/or Ireland.
  • Archaeology of Ancient Ireland – Explore the whole story of Ireland’s archaeological past, enhancing skills essential in teaching about the Irish past or providing narratives in the heritage industry.
  • Archaeology of the Wild Atlantic Way – Explore the physical remains of Ireland’s past from along the western seaboard of Ireland, enhancing skills essential in teaching about Ireland’s past or providing narratives in the heritage industry.
  • Archaeology: The Science of Investigation – Develop your awareness of the role of scientific investigation in archaeology and how it provides new insights into the evolution of past cultures and societies.

Studying Archaeology in college

Many courses in Archaeology may take place over a few days, weeks, or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Consider volunteering as a digger or check out opportunities with local museums and galleries and heritage organizations. Some employers of archaeologists will expect you to have experience in related areas so look for suitable opportunities. By doing this you’ll also show your commitment and genuine interest in the career.

Work Experience will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, but it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing an Archaeology course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of recording, interpreting, and preserving archaeological remains for future generations.

Employers of archaeologists typically include archaeological contractors, independent archaeological consultants, local government, national heritage agencies, private museums and charities, and university archaeology departments.

In addition, you can look for opportunities in the area of rescue archaeology. This can also be known as commercial, contract, compliance, preventive, or salvage archaeology, and it takes place before any building work or land development.

As your career progresses, you’re more likely to work indoors rather than on-site. There may be opportunities for work or travel overseas for experienced or senior professionals involved in special projects.

Working hours will depend on whether you are self-employed, employed by a company with set business hours, or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. You may work an average of 37.5 hours per week, Monday to Friday. You may need to work weekends and evenings if the time frame of a dig is tight. Part-time work may be possible in some organizations. 

Related jobs include:

  • Archaeologist
  • Academic researcher
  • Conservator
  • Heritage manager
  • Historic buildings inspector
  • Conservation officer
  • Museum education officer
  • Museum/Gallery curator
  • Museum/Gallery exhibitions officer
  • Archivist
  • Cartographer
  • Higher education lecturer
  • Records manager
  • Social researcher
  • Tourism officer

Further study

After completing a course in Archaeology, you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as human osteology and palaeopathology, geophysics, heritage management, and landscape archaeology.


Are there different types of archaeology?

There are four main areas of archaeology:

· Contract or commercial archaeology – working for a developer who is responsible for the cost and time involved in a project

· Research or academic archaeology – working on sites or survey projects over several months or years, subject to funding

· Public or community archaeology – work carried out by professional organizations but with public involvement

· Specialist archaeology – specializing in particular geographical areas, historical periods, or types of objects, such as pottery, coins, or bones.


What skills could be helpful for a career in Archaeology?

For a career in Archaeology, you will likely require a mix of subject-specific and technical skills such as:

· Applying theoretical and scientific principles and concepts to archaeological problems

· Fieldwork, post-excavation, and laboratory techniques

· Applying statistical and numerical techniques to process archaeological data

· Interpretation of spatial data

It will also be useful to have some knowledge or experience working as a team member or leader through field and project work, have some ability to form structured arguments supported by evidence, know how to prepare and give oral presentations for different audiences and retrieve information to produce written reports.

Other general skills that could be useful will be the ability to use various IT packages, work methodically and accurately and demonstrate attention to detail.

Where can I study Archaeology?

Explore your options here

 Did You Know?

· Most cultures with writing systems leave written records that archaeologists consult and study. Some of the most valuable written records are everyday items, such as shopping lists and tax forms.

· Latin, the language of ancient Rome, helps archaeologists understand artifacts and features discovered in parts of the Roman Empire. The use of Latin shows how far the empire’s influence extended, and the records themselves can tell archaeologists what foods were available in an area, how much they cost, and what buildings belonged to families or businesses.

· People have dug up monuments and collected artifacts for thousands of years. Often, these people were not scholars, but looters and grave robbers looking to make money or build up their collections.

· One of the most well-known archaeological finds is the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, also known as King Tut. Unlike many other Egyptian tombs, grave robbers had never discovered King Tut. His resting place lay undisturbed for thousands of years until it was discovered in 1922. In addition to the mummies of Tutankhamen and his family, the tomb contained some 5,000 artifacts.

· Many early archaeologists worked in the service of invading armies. When Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte of France successfully invaded Egypt in 1798, he brought artists, archaeologists, and historians to document the conquest. Napoleon’s troops took home hundreds of tons of Egyptian artifacts: columns, coffins, stone tablets, and monumental statues. Today, these Egyptian antiquities take up entire floors of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.


Mariza Halliday

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