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Archaeology A Level at Truro and Penwith College

Course description

You will explore different ritual and religious systems in Prehistoric or Roman Europe and interpret their past according to surviving archaeology. Through context and breadth studies you will analyse the concepts in detail including ritual landscapes, tombs and temples. What can we interpret from sacrifices and megalithic structures?

Then you will study archaeological skills and methods where we learn the various stages of an archaeological investigation and through a combination of lectures and practical fieldwork you will develop an understanding of the role of an archaeologist. How do archaeologists locate and excavate sites? What problems do they face? What do we do with archaeological evidence?

In the second year you will be introduced to a range of themes and sites in World Archaeology utilising AS skills and knowledge. World Archaeology examines how sites across the world developed exploring themes such as landscape, economics and material culture. How did modern humans develop? What can we tell about social structures and warfare? Can we interpret Nazi archaeological ideology?

Finally, you will complete coursework undertaking your own archaeological investigation on a local site. This gives you the opportunity to apply your new skills to answer a question that you have posed about a real archaeological site. What techniques will you use on your site? Could you discover a new breakthrough?

Course content

Unit 1 Archaeology of Religion and Ritual

The main aim of this unit is to allow you to examine past belief systems and how these are interpreted through surviving archaeological evidence. We will study a range of Prehistoric or Roman case study sites in Europe in order to offer you a broader understanding of the development of ritual and religious belief through archaeological remains. You will be introduced to temples, burial practices, ritual specialists and the concepts of gods and mythology. This may also include trips to some Roman sites in Britain to support the theoretical work we do in the classroom.


Unit 2 Archaeological Skills and Methods

You will explore how archaeology is actually undertaken and how the processes involved have developed over time. You will study aerial photography, survey and excavation to investigate the prehistoric past and then how this evidence is analysed to produce dynamic interpretations. As part of this unit you will be undertaking fieldtrips to carry out practical activities with archaeological equipment in order to support the theoretical work we do in the classroom.

Unit 3 World Archaeology

World Archaeology is by far one of the most popular units you will undertake on the Archaeology programme. You will explore both Prehistoric or Roman archaeological sites and evidence from across the world. This unit is structured around a number of themes such as landscape, economics and material culture to examine the archaeological evidence but also allows you to look at contemporary issues facing Archaeology such as management and identity of human remains, sites, artefacts and the ongoing battle between preserving our past and building for the future.


Unit 4: Archaeological Investigation

A coursework unit in which you will select a local site and undertake some practical fieldwork on that site in order to answer a question which you have set. The coursework will be between 3500 – 4000 words but is organised into smaller focus sections. It will also give you the opportunity to conduct a real life archaeological investigation of your choosing, developing important employability skills. Further guidance on this element of the programme will be given during classes.

Entry requirements

The basic requirement is five GCSEs at grade C or above. GCSEs at grade A or B in English and a Science subject with History or Geography are recommended.


Strong attendance in Archaeology is crucial to ensure you do not miss key themes or concepts and the opportunity to discuss complex theories with staff and peers. Your assessment will consist of the following:

  • On-going regular assessment and feedback by the tutor through written assignments conducted as either homework or under timed conditions. This will include regular assessment on concept words associated with the Religion and Ritual unit of the programme.
  • You will undertake mock examinations on each unit in advance of your final exams.
  • It is a two year programme and you will be formally examined on 50% of your course at the end of the first year (ARCH1 & 2).
  • At the end of your second year you will only be examined on ARCH3 (World Archaeology) due to the coursework component.
  • The format of each unit exam will be fully explained at the beginning of the programme and at various intervals throughout to fully prepare you.
  • The final unit of the programme in the second year is an assessed coursework unit that will require you to undertake archaeological fieldwork on a site and write up your findings. Again the details of this assessed element will be discussed with you in class.
  • Discussions and presentations are a vital part of our informal assessment process and you will be expected to contribute to those and any additional in-class activities.
  • You will review your own performance in 1:1 sessions with your tutor.

Future opportunities

An A Level in Archaeology is valued at university and by future employers alike. As the subject is so multidisciplinary combining elements of science and arts, it allows learners to develop strong analytical skills, lateral thinking and practical skills. As well as the academic merits of the programme, it is more likely to attract more attention in future applications than most subjects. Archaeology complements a wide range of subjects including Classics, History, Geology, Anthropology, English, Geography, the Sciences and even Education.

Archaeology can lead on to a broad spectrum of careers, from field archaeology, museum work, archives and library work, tourism and heritage, civil service and surveying to name a few. Many A Level Archaeologists continue on with the subject at degree level and even specialise in a particular area in the subject at postgraduate level.

Further information

You are expected to undertake at least six hours of independent study time per week; there is an expectation within this that you watch archaeological documentaries to further broaden and contextualise the work done in class. You will be given a course textbook at the beginning of the programme as well as study and revision guides associated with each module. The course offers the opportunity to undertake coursework on an archaeological site and there will be practical lectures offered to support this fieldwork. The programme has strong links with the BSc Archaeology programme offered through Plymouth University and professionals working in the sector in Cornwall allowing you the chance to participate in conferences, guest lectures and gain access to the HE resources.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Truro and Penwith College directly.

Last updated date: 15 June 2016

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