• University of Reading

Archaeology: from Dig to Lab and Beyond

Get an introduction to studying archaeology, exploring exciting discoveries in the Vale of Pewsey, near to Stonehenge and Avebury.

55,075 enrolled on this course

Archaeology: a human skull is examined in the lab.
  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Chart the progress of an archaeological excavation from dig to lab and beyond.

We’ll show you around our field school at the Vale of Pewsey, a relatively untouched site compared to its famous neighbour, Stonehenge.

An excavation is more than just digging with a trowel. You’ll investigate how and where to dig, collect, record and store precious finds and take a closer look at what you can learn from a discovery once you’ve found it.

One of the most intriguing finds of all is a burial site and you’ll examine the archaeological methods employed in the study of the dead. How can you recreate the life, health and occupation of an individual just from their skeletal remains?

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

Week 1:

  • The transferable skills needed to be an archaeologist
  • Introduction to the Neolithic period
  • Planning an excavation
  • How does a dig work?
  • Storing, handling, recording and transporting artefacts

Week 2:

  • Introduction to the medieval period
  • Human bone analysis
  • Archaeological science: what can isotopes in bone tell us?
  • Museums: the ethics of storage and display

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain how an archaeological dig works, from the planning stages, through excavation, to the analysis and storage of artefacts
  • Summarise the basic characteristics of all archaeological periods from the Mesolithic to the post-medieval period (c.8000 BC–AD 1900)
  • Describe the main ways in which archaeologists analyse human skeletons
  • Debate some of the key issues facing archaeology today
  • Understand the transferable skills you will acquire from studying archaeology

Who is the course for?

No prior experience of archaeology is needed. This course is designed for anyone interested in studying an archaeology degree at university. However, anyone with an enthusiastic interest in archaeology is very welcome to join us too.

Who will you learn with?

Duncan Garrow teaches and researches later European prehistory (with a particular focus on Britain) and archaeological theory at the University of Reading.

Jim is the Director of the Reading Archaeology Field School, which is based in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire. His recent book is 'The Remembered Land. Surviving sea-level rise after the last Ice Age'.

I am a human bioarchaeologist (bone specialist) specialising in the recognition of disease in children and adolescents. I am a lecturer at Reading and run an MSc in Professional Human Osteoarchaeology

I am a field archaeologist who has worked on excavations of all periods, all over the world. I specialise in the teaching of archaeological field techniques, and organising large excavation projects.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLdigtolab to talk about this course on social media.