Archaeology: my course so far

Jamie Rawsthorn

I’ll start this by saying a huge congratulations on your offer to study in the department of archaeology. In this blog I’ll tell you a little about my experience as an archaeology student at Durham, and what I’ve enjoyed the most!

What made me pick the course?

One of my A-levels was Archaeology, and it was by far my favourite because of the topics covered, ranging from the enchanting religion and ritual topic to the essential skills and methods topic. I specifically loved learning about prehistoric plants and past environments, and so I chose the BSc in order to choose modules focusing on palaeoenvironments.

What do I enjoy?

I love to get stuck into the practical side of the course, and by studying archaeobotany modules you get the chance to take part in some really fun experiments. My dissertation this year involves burning fires which is always good fun, but processing and analysing samples is great as well because of how amazing the labs here are.

Which specific modules do I like?

Besides any module relating to plant remains, the best modules I have taken are either ‘Prehistoric Europe’ because of the way you travel through time, learning about Palaeolithic mammoth hunting all the way to studying Iron Age chieftain social hierarchy. In 2nd year I also studied Ancient Egypt in the ‘EMBA’ module. I found it fascinating to learn about religious kingship ideologies and their deified structures left behind!

Any fieldwork opportunities?

During the summer of first year, all students taking the ‘ProTrain’ module must do 15 days of excavation at the Medieval site Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland. Aside from this, it depends on how eager you are to get stuck in! in the third year you can undertake research placements either in the lab or in faraway locations like Morocco or Lebanon, or even excavate human remains in the Holy Islands. It’s always good fun volunteering too, as there is always practical work to be done in the labs which is a great way to get both experience and potential referees.

Auckland Castle

Any plans after graduation?

I would love to eventually work as a professional archaeobotanist, but first I am going to be doing the MSc Bioarchaeology course, where you can choose a specific pathway to study (*cough* environmental *cough*). I’ll continue to be volunteering in the environmental processing labs, so I’ll often be available for a chat if anyone wants to ask any questions if you come to Durham!

What can you look forward to with Durham archaeology courses?

I would say the most exciting part is the course structure (hear me out). You begin quite broad in first year, allowing students to get a feel for bundles of different topics, so you can test the waters and see which disciplines and topics you click with. During the second and third years you can begin to specialise in something specific, even choosing modules solely around one discipline if you want to. I would also say that the teachers within the department are a huge bonus to the course. Every lecturer I’ve spoken to hasn’t felt like you’re talking to an employed lecturer who gives a stern answer, but it feels like you’re always talking to a friend who takes what really matters to you into consideration. I think this is really important, and it’s great that the department operates like this.

With all that said, I wish you all the best of luck studying archaeology here at Durham! 🙂

Discover more

About studying Archaeology at Durham here.

Download our latest prospectus and college guide here.

Follow our students on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Jamie Rawsthorn

Hi everyone, I’m Jamie Rawsthorn, a current 3rd year student from Josephine Butler College studying BSc Archaeology.

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