Dr Emma Brownlee
The story of Girton is in some ways an exercise in Archaeology. In 1875 and 1881, plans to build and extend the College were disrupted by the discovery that the main site was occupied in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times. The remains discovered then, and since, can be seen among the treasures on show in our very special ‘house’ museum, the Lawrence Room.
Archaeology is one of our longest established subjects: it has been taught in College since 1915 when courses in archaeology were first introduced by the University. Scholars and students from diverse backgrounds are attracted to study archaeology at Girton; for undergraduates it is an integral part of the Human, Social, and Political Sciences Tripos.
Over the years a number of prominent archaeologists have been educated at Girton. These include Dr Joan Oates, a specialist of Near Eastern archaeology, who excavated sites ranging from early villages to the great Assyrian capital of Nimrud. As a student she excavated alongside Agatha Christie in Syria; today she is almost as well known, and travels widely to share her own stories of discovery. Currently the Girton archaeological community is led by Dr Liliana Janik who is undertaking ground breaking research into early artworks.
The archaeology courses on offer allow undergraduate, Masters and PhD students to choose what interests them within a wide range of archaeological theory and practice, including: European, Near Eastern, Indian, Central and South American archaeology, scientific approaches or heritage. Students can also study the cultures of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as Akkadian and Egyptian languages.
With the Division of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge is one of the largest centres of archaeological research in Britain, and we have recently been awarded top place in the Good University Guide for Archaeology in the UK. Cambridge University’s learning resources, including direct hands-on access to world-class collections in Cambridge’s many museums, research centres and the Haddon and Girton Libraries offer everything students need for confident, imaginative, exciting learning.
Being an archaeologist is not only about being successful in your exams: it is also the way you approach and solve problems, communicate your ideas. Having passionate curiosity about the human past, present and future is as important as knowing key facts and possessing excellent writing skills.
The teaching of archaeology combines classroom study with a practical approach to the subject. Linking lectures with study skills, exam preparation workshops, and supervisions in College, Cambridge University creates the best opportunities for students to develop their full potential. At the Division of Archaeology the exciting programme of lectures, seminars, lab practicals, field trips and excavations creates a lively environment for each student to focus on their own interest while acquiring an in-depth knowledge of the subject in different areas of the world.
Archaeological field trips are an important part of the first and second years. Recent destinations have included Wessex, Croatia, Denmark, France and Spain. Many of the costs can be covered by grants.
A period of fieldwork is compulsory during the summer between the second and third year. Girton undergraduates excavate in many different parts of the world. Recent destinations have included Argentina, Egypt, Hungary and the UK. Awards are available to students to support their involvement in these projects.
The postgraduate community of MPhil students and PhD candidates in the Division of Archaeology is large and consists of students from around the world. The courses concentrate on understanding past societies via theoretical and scientific approaches, as well as the role the past plays in the contemporary world as heritage and the way the past influences how national, regional and local community identities are created. More information on the MPhil in Archaeology can be found on the Division of Archaeology webpage.
Research and postgraduate students are admitted to the University by the Board of Graduate Studies. You must therefore apply centrally and not to the College, however you must be admitted to a College to be able to study at the University. To ensure that this is Girton you need to indicate this on your application form.
Archaeology graduates find work in the variety of places. Recent graduates have entered industry, finance, museums, academia and the law.