• 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.

51,526 enrolled on this course

Archaeology: a human skull is examined in the lab.

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?

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  • Week 1

    The Dig

    • Welcome to our virtual field school

      Welcome to the course. Meet the course Educators and find out what will be covered over the next two weeks on Archaeology: from Dig to Lab and Beyond.

    • Preparing and planning a dig

      How do we decide where to dig? Find out more about the planning processes behind a large scale excavation.

    • History of the Vale of Pewsey

      Let's start by looking into the history of the Vale of Pewsey from the Mesolithic period up to the Post-medieval. Then we'll focus on 4000 BC, and ask what was life like in England during the Neolithic period?

    • Unearthing Marden and Wilsford Henge

      Aerial mapping by Historic England uncovered previously unknown archaeological landscapes preserved between Stonehenge and Avebury. In this activity, you'll look at the work carried out so far at these newly identified sites.

    • The field school

      What happens day-to-day on a large excavation such as the field school? Meet the people behind the scenes who ensure everything runs smoothly and find out why an excavation is not just about digging.

    • The discoveries

      The Vale of Pewsey is an archaeological treasure chest and we've found a vast assortment of objects from the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Roman periods. Here we look at three of these discoveries in more detail.

  • Week 2

    The Lab

    • Welcome to week two

      Last week, we explored a large archaeological excavation and what happens to the discoveries once dug up. But not all archaeological work is done in the field. This week, we'll focus on the lab.

    • The life of an apprentice

      Watch how a skeleton can be analysed in order to identify the age and biological sex of the individual.

    • Health of the apprentice

      What can the study of bones tell us about medieval life? Let's look at what stable isotope analysis is and how it can be used to identify migrants, such as apprentices, to medieval cities.

    • Museums

      What happens to a discovery once it has been analysed in the lab? Let's discuss whether all objects can and should, be displayed for the general public to view.

    • Review and reflect

      Thank you for joining us on Archaeology: from Dig to Lab and Beyond. As we reach the end of the course let's think about next steps.

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

If you'd like to take part while our educators are leading the course, they'll be joining the discussions, in the comments, between these dates:

  • 13 Jun 2022 - 26 Jun 2022

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.

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.


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