BA in Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of past human cultures through the discovery and interpretation of their material remains. From bones and plants to pots, tools, and buried cities, archaeologists fit the pieces together to solve big puzzles surrounding human existence, social change, and interaction with physical environments: who and what, when and where, how and why. The objectives of archaeology also include a concern for the management of cultural heritage, for the ethics of preserving and presenting the human past, and for the appreciation of how understanding the past enriches us in the present and in our orientation toward the future. Undergraduate students majoring in Archaeology learn the scientific and humanistic methods of analyzing and interpreting past human cultures within their spatial and temporal contexts, as well as different theoretical perspectives for understanding this evidence. Multidisciplinary skill sets developed by Archaeology students are transferable to careers in professional archaeology and a range of other fields, including international studies, cultural heritage and preservation, museums, cultural geography and ecology, and geospatial and material analyses.


The major requires a total of 12 courses, all completed with a grade of C or higher: nine courses in archaeology (AR), two in anthropology (AN), and one in statistics.

All required courses are 4 credit hours.

Required Courses (9)

In archaeology, students take a core of four required courses:

  • CAS AR 101 Introduction to Archaeology
  • CAS AR 307 Archaeological Science
  • CAS AR 450 Methods and Theory of Archaeology
  • CAS AR 503 Archaeological Field Methods: Survey and Excavation* (or equivalent, for which prior approval is necessary)

*CAS AR 503 is offered as part of department field school programs during both the academic year and in the summer.

Students choose five additional archaeology courses, distributed as follows, with a maximum of one course at the 100 level:

  • One technical course from: CAS AR 381, 382, 400, 505, 506, 509, 510, 556, 570, or 590
  • One topical course from: CAS AR 150, 200, 202, 205, 206, 208, 215, 221, 290, 353, 396, 435, 438, 480, 504, 507, 543, 570, 577, 590, or 593
  • One area course from: all CAS AR courses not listed above
  • Two additional CAS AR (technical, topical, and/or area) courses selected in consultation with the advisor

Note: Courses listed directly above as fulfilling more than one departmental distribution requirement can be applied only once, and cannot count as fulfilling two or more distribution requirements.

Required Related Courses (3)

  • One course in statistics (CAS MA 115 or MA 213)
  • CAS AN 101 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology)
  • One additional CAS AN course (to be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor)

Language Requirement

Students are expected to fulfill the CAS language requirement with a language appropriate to their majors. In some cases, at least two semesters of an ancient language are recommended in addition to a modern foreign language.

Archaeology Field School Policy

Every major in archaeology must complete CAS AR 503, a course in archaeological field methods, for 4 credits. It is expected that the requirement for AR 503 will be satisfied by participation in one of Boston University’s field schools. Credits may be transferred in exceptional cases from a field school in another institution. Prior approval from the student’s advisor is required for transfers, and the field school must carry the equivalent of 4 Boston University academic credits. Transfer credits from field schools at other institutions will be approved only if the field school satisfies the requirements for AR 503, which are listed on the Department of Archaeology website. In certain exceptional circumstances, extensive or unusual fieldwork that does not carry academic credit may be used to satisfy the requirement for AR 503, but prior approval from the student’s advisor, the director of undergraduate studies, and the chair of the Department of Archaeology is required.

Second Major or Minor

Because archaeologists’ study of the human past draws so widely on other fields and links to interests across the liberal arts, sciences, and professions, the major in Archaeology works particularly well in combination with a second major or complementary minor. Recent Archaeology students, with strong encouragement and support from their department advisors, have branched out to major or minor in related areas including anthropology, history, and international relations; history of art and architecture, classical and medieval studies; foreign languages and regional (European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, African, etc.) studies; biology and chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, marine science, computer science and engineering, and medical science; as well as communications and journalism. Many other major-major or major-minor combinations with Archaeology are possible.

Honors in the Major

Qualified students may elect to write a substantial research paper for honors in the major (the equivalent of two regular courses). A written proposal describing the project must be submitted to the undergraduate advisor no later than the end of the junior year.