Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

What made me decide to study CAAH? I went on holiday to Greece with my family during the summer holiday before applying, I had no idea what I wanted to apply for at that point, but I found seeing the ruins at Olympia really interesting and exciting. I had never done any Ancient History but after researching the course online I decided that it was what I wanted to do. I really enjoy my History Tutorials – the course is quite small so it’s just my tutor and me. I’m also looking forward to a dig (we have to do at least 2 weeks at an archaeological site over the summer and the University pays the expenses). I will be going to Italy for mine. One of my best memories of the course is from last term, when a group of us went down to the British Museum for a class. It was nice to actually see the vases we’d been studying for the previous 6 weeks.

Samantha, Worcester, 3rd year

I chose Classical Archaeology and Ancient History precisely because I wanted to study the Classical World without being confined to the literature. Having a personal interest in art, I’m particularly interested in the artifacts and architecture of the Ancient World, so being able to study the Classical World without being limited to the literary sources was really important to me. With the Ashmolean Museum so close by, it’s easy to go and see the objects you’re studying, rather than just seeing their images in print. As the museum is part of the university, there’s also the possibility of attending handling sessions. I find them fascinating – although, I’m always terrified I’m going to drop something!

One of the best experiences of my first year was participating in fieldwork in Italy. I’ve never been that interested in excavation, but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. It’s a fantastic way to get hands-on experience of archaeology and also a great excuse to do some (relevant) sightseeing along the way.

Alex, Wadham, student from 2012

For people who want to study the Classical worlds of Greece and Rome but don’t want to pursue a literature-based route, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History is the natural choice. It looks at the history, art and archaeology of these civilisations (although you can study the language of them too if you choose). The only compulsory modules are in your first year, one on the Greek Archaic period and one on the transition from Republic to Empire in the Roman world. Aside from these, each module you take is pretty much up to you. There’s a chance to study outside of the boundaries of the Classical World, with modules on offer in your second and third years that look at Egypt and the early Islamic world. Some modules even focus on the process of archaeology – for example, investigating the scientific methods in use.

What makes Oxford different?

  • Not only does the course focus on History and Archaeology as separate disciplines, but its also uses combined approaches to gain a better insight into the Ancient World.

  • It’s not just limited to Classical Greece and Rome; it covers a vast period of history, from 3200 BC to 950 AD.

What helped inspire your love of the subject?

Visiting the Ashmolean and British Museum was particularly interesting - they are both free!

There are loads of interesting documentaries about Ancient History on TV (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 etc…) and every so often you'll see the tutors on them! I enjoyed watching Rome (HBO series) and I Claudius (BBC, also a book by Robert Graves), as well as reading Robert Harris’ Imperium.

Samantha, Worcester, 3rd year

Tell us about your interview?

In the first interview I was given a source, a poem, during the interview to study and asked what it might be about and why that might be. There was a lot of discussion about what I found interesting about certain aspects of the subject and I led the discussion using what I had written in my personal statement.

In my other interview I remember talking about bias a lot, why some sources were more reliable than others. I was given a sort of architectural plan of a building and we discussed what it could have been.

In my third interview we discussed what I took the course description (available online) to mean and how it might be relevant to today. I was given a source and asked to discuss what it could tell us about the civilisation that wrote it.

Samantha, Worcester, 3rd year

Applicants that might be offered a place are invited for interview in December.

Find out more

Course length: 3 years
Students per year: 20

Make sure you read the official prospectus entry for the course which contains entry requirements, full course structure, additional interesting resources and full details of the application process.

If you're going to apply, you'll want to check which Oxford colleges offer this course.

You might also find it helpful to hear from students studying Arch and Anth, Classics, History, AMH or History of Art (or even consider applying for those courses!).