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Why Study Archaeology?

Excavating Neolithic human remains with the Southern Romania Archaeological Project, Romania

Archaeology addresses big questions about the past that cannot be answered in other ways, because the written record is absent or limited.  Archaeologists are interested in all aspects of the people of the past, from their diets to their beliefs; from the tools they used to the houses they lived in.  Many of these questions are relevant to the modern world – Why do civilisations decline?  How have people affected the environment they live in? – while others are important to our understanding of ourselves – What are the origins of religious beliefs? When and where did we first settle in towns and villages? All are vital if we are to understand what it is to be human. 

To solve these problems using the traces that remain is a challenging and exciting endeavour, and requires the use of every approach and tool that we can muster, from excavation to the analysis of DNA.  We have to learn to think in different ways, so that our picture of the past is not distorted by our view of the present.  For early historical civilisations, such as those of Egypt, Greece and Rome, we must learn to balance the evidence from the fragmented writings that we have inherited with the evidence from artefacts, bodies, buildings and landscapes.

In studying archaeology at Cardiff, you will encounter new ways of looking, thinking and doing.  You will examine evidence from a wide range of sources, such as bones, insects, potsherds and coins.  You will develop your own arguments based upon your interpretation of the archaeological record.  You will be able use a range of sophisticated surveying methods and, if you wish, you will have the opportunity to use advanced techniques of scientific analysis.  You will excavate your first potsherd, stone tool or coin.

The study of the past requires a wide range of skills, and when you have completed your degree, you will take them with you.  In your archaeology course you will work as part of a team in the field and in the laboratory; you will research ideas, form opinions and present them in your own terms; you will develop your writing to address a range of audiences; you will use a range of software programmes and develop a wide range of practical skills.  These transferable skills will be of benefit in your future career, no matter what path you decide to take.

An archaeology degree represents a challenging, interesting and exciting way to prepare for the future.  Find out more about our degree schemes.