What is Classical Archaeology and Ancient History (CAAH)?
The course combines study of the history, archaeology and art of the classical world. It looks at the societies and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world through their written texts, visual art and material remains, and has at its centre the two classical cultures of Greece and Rome. It is aimed at anyone interested in investigating ancient civilisations and their remains, from Greek temples and Roman amphitheatres to wall-paintings and the poignant residues of everyday life. While it is primarily a historical and non-linguistic degree, ancient languages can be used and learned as part of the course.
CAAH at Oxford
The CAAH degree is taught through a mixture of tutorials, lectures and classes. Some cover specifically archaeological or historical approaches to ancient Mediterranean cultures, but the degree is unique in also offering courses that combine both approaches. In every year of the course there are classes led by two faculty members, one archaeologist and one historian. These classes are designed to give an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the topics studied.
The University’s resources for this combined subject are excellent, in terms of both library facilities – much of the Sackler Library’s collection is built around these two subjects – and the range and number of postholders in the two fields. The University’s Ashmolean Museum also contains wide-ranging collections of art and artefacts from the classical cultures.
Fieldwork and international opportunities
There are two practical elements – two weeks at the end of the first year spent either on a University-sponsored excavation or on another archaeological field project, and the preparation of a report in the second and third years focusing either on a particular ancient site or on an artefact or set of artefacts in a museum of your choice, from the Ashmolean to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
A typical weekly timetable
During the first year, your work is divided between lectures (about four to six a week), team-taught classes (one a week for the first two terms), tutorials (one every week or two) and/or language classes and private study. In the second and third years, besides lectures, tutorials and classes, you will also spend time preparing your museum or site report.
In your second and third years, leading up to your final exams, you build on the work done in the first year and expand your range in time and theme. You will take six options and a site or museum report (equivalent to one paper). The options are chosen from a list of Integrated Classes, which bring together historical and archaeological approaches to a particular period; Core Papers, which deal with central topics in Greco-Roman studies; Further Papers, whose range allows you either to build up concentrated expertise in some central areas and periods or to extend into earlier and later periods, and into non-classical cultures; and Classical Language Papers, which allow you to continue the study of Greek or Latin.
What are tutors looking for?
Tutors are looking for intellectual potential, the specific visual, textual and reasoning abilities that are required for this course, and, of course, serious interest in and commitment to both classical archaeology and ancient history. Tutors will consider all the available information -past and predicted examination results, the personal statement, academic reference and interviews - to assess the individual candidate’s potential to benefit from the course provided by Oxford, and their potential to be a good tutorial student, and to attain good results in examinations. The weight given to the different criteria will vary according to the individual background and circumstances of each candidate.
For further information about the selection criteria see: ox.ac.uk/criteria.
Students interested in this course might also like to consider Archaeology and Anthropology, Classics, other History courses or History of Art.
While some Classical Archaeology and Ancient History graduates will go on to further study and research to become professional archaeologists and historians, others will move into different areas. Graduates have started their careers in museum curation, heritage management and education, as well as in finance, advertising, publishing, the Civil Service and law. Recent Classical Archaeology and Ancient History graduates include a financial adviser, a teacher and a curator. Sarah, who graduated in 2007, is now a personal adviser. She says: ‘My degree at Oxford provided the challenging environment in which I developed the skills I later needed to successfully complete Reed’s rigorous application procedure.’
For more information about careers after Oxford, please see p 122 [Transcriber’s Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note].
The Sackler Library, part of the Bodleian Libraries, is a principal research library of the University and specialises in Archaeology, Art History and Classics (Ancient History and Literature).
Four courses are taken.
Aristocracy and democracy in the Greek world, 550-450 BC
Republic to empire: Rome, 50 BC to AD 50
Archaeology: Homeric archaeology and early Greece from 1550 to 700 BC; Greek vases, Greek sculpture c600-300 BC; Roman architecture