BA in Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of people, cultures, and human environments in the distant and recent past. A major in archaeology will help you develop a global perspective, an understanding of diverse cultures and places, an appreciation for the complexities of cultural heritage, and a long view of human history. Our majors work closely with faculty in field projects, analytical labs, and the classroom to gain expertise in different and the shared aspects of human cultures, the importance of cultural heritage, and how archaeology plays an important role in international relations, territorial claims, climate change research, national movements, and other aspects of the modern world. Students also learn about the appropriate applications of quantitative analysis and the assumptions that underlie them. In addition to skills specific to the discipline, courses help hone analytical and writing skills that are valuable in many different fields. Archaeology is interdisciplinary by nature; students are encouraged to double major in related fields such as anthropology, biology, classics, computer science, earth and environment, history of art and architecture, international relations, history, and more. We offer a major and minor in Archaeology as well as a combined BA/MA degree in Archaeology.

Resources in Archaeology at Boston University

In the classroom, students study particular world cultures and regions as well as broad topics including the origins of agriculture, the rise of complex societies, environmental change, and issues in cultural heritage management. Technical courses provide methodological training in remote sensing, GIS, and analytical techniques such as paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, ceramic analysis, and bioarchaeology. Area courses cover the early cultures of Mesoamerica, North America, East and Southeast Asia, Israel, Mediterranean societies, Paleolithic archaeology, and more. Nearly all Archaeology courses count toward Hub requirements.

Archaeology laboratories are state-of-the-art facilities that provide hands-on experience with a range of analytical techniques. The Environmental Archaeology Lab is devoted to the study of human interactions with past environments, focusing on the analysis of plant remains from sites worldwide from the Paleolithic through recent historical periods. The Zooarchaeology Lab processes, catalogs, and analyzes faunal remains from sites around the world, and includes a large and varied comparative collection of animal skeletons. GIS and Remote Sensing facilities provide training in geophysical survey methods, aerial and satellite image analysis, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for landscape analysis, site detection, and other goals. Various consortia make it possible for students to take advantage of the collective resources of the numerous institutions of higher learning in the greater Boston area.

The Boston University Archaeology Society is organized by undergraduate majors and offers many opportunities for students to socialize, meet visiting scholars, learn hands-on skills such as flint knapping, learn about fieldwork opportunities and internships, and enjoy field trips to archaeology-related sites, labs, lectures, and museum exhibitions.

Career Opportunities

An undergraduate degree in archaeology is preparation for study or professional development in almost any field. If you are interested in a career in archaeology—whether via higher education, museum work, or cultural resource managementyou will need an advanced degree, and an undergraduate degree from Boston University will put you in a competitive position for admission to a graduate program. If you decide to pursue another career, the broad range of studies in our undergraduate program, with its strong focus on the liberal arts, provides excellent preparation; recent graduates have found success in law, museology, cultural resource management, and journalism. Archaeology majors attract interest from employers in areas including publishing, government service, management, and foreign service because of their diversity of research and analytical skills and their breadth of knowledge about world culture.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a major in Archaeology are able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of history of archaeological theory.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the archaeological record of multiple world regions.
  • Apply methods of archaeological analysis to material remains common to archaeological datasets.
  • Participate in a significant archaeological research experience.
  • Incorporate their core knowledge of archaeological methods, theory, cases, and ethical issues to evaluating, in written and oral form, contemporary debates concerning the study and understanding of the human past.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Archaeology will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; Scientific and Social Inquiry, and most of the requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

In addition to the curricular requirements of the College of Arts & Sciences, an undergraduate major in Archaeology requires the successful completion of a total of 12 courses: nine in archaeology, two in anthropology, and one in statistics.

All required courses are 4 credit hours.

Required Archaeology Courses (9)

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

  • CAS AR 190 Introduction to Archaeology
  • CAS AR 307 Archaeological Science
  • CAS AR 591 Theory in Archaeology
  • CAS AR 503 Archaeological Field Methods: Survey and Excavation (or equivalent, for which prior approval is necessary) or CAS AR 556 Archaeological Field Research Experience or CAS AR 410 Archaeological Research Design and Materials Analysis (for additional details, see the Archaeological Field Experience Policy below).

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 410, 505, 506, 507, 510, 516, 518, 556, 570, or 590
  • One topical course from: CAS AR 150, 200, 202, 205, 206, 208, 215, 222, 262, 280, 290, 305, 353, 369, 375, 393, 395, 396, 430, 435, 500, 520, 533, 570, 577, 580, 590, 592, or 593
  • One area course from: CAS AR 201, 209, 210, 230, 232, 240, 250, 251, 261, 270, 273, 283, 322, 323, 330, 331, 332, 333, 337, 341, 342, 343, 346, 347, 348, 365, 371, 372, 390, 438, or 575
  • Two additional CAS AR (technical, topical, and/or area) courses selected in consultation with the student’s advisor

Required Related Courses (3)

  • One course in statistics (CAS MA 115, CAS MA 213, CAS EE 270, or CGS MA 113)
  • CAS AN 101 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology)
  • One additional CAS AN course (to be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor)

Second Language Requirement

Students are expected to fulfill the CAS second 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 the CAS Second Language Requirement.

Archaeological Field Experience Policy

Every major in Archaeology must participate in an approved archaeological field experience, which may include survey, excavation, laboratory analysis, heritage management, remote sensing, or other research relating to an archaeological project. The field experience requirement may be satisfied by successfully completing CAS AR 503, AR 556, AR 410 or another supervised field or lab program. Prior approval from the student’s academic advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies is required. If a non-BU field program carries academic credit, prior approval for transfer of at least 4 academic credits at BU should be obtained. 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 director of the Archaeology Program is required. Remember that non-BU courses are not eligible for Hub units. Faculty advisors will work with students to identify an appropriate field school placement. For details about this policy, majors should consult with their advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

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, Asian, 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.

Portfolio Guidelines for Archaeology Majors

Major portfolios allow students to document their capstone accomplishments in the program and provide data for the purpose of annual program assessment and evaluation by the faculty.

The AR major’s portfolio contains the following materials provided by the student as PDF files:

  • A paper written in CAS AR 591
  • A 2-to-3-page summary of the student’s field research (CAS AR 503, AR 556, AR 410, or equivalent)
  • A copy of the student’s honors thesis project (if applicable)

The AR major’s portfolio will contain the following other materials provided by faculty/staff:

  • A written evaluation of the student’s performance in CAS AR 591 by the instructor of record
  • A written exit interview provided to the student by program staff prior to graduation (the student’s identity is anonymous in these interviews and all are uploaded by program staff to a single folder)

A record of the portfolio will be kept in digital form mounted as a folder on the centralized server maintained by the Archaeology Program.

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 April 15 of their junior year for approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Archaeology faculty. Full requirements and deadlines can be found at the Honors Program website.