Archaeology is concerned with the study of the entirety of the human past

Welcome to the School of Archaeology. Here we host an outstanding research programme covering an extensive geographical and chronological span. Our students benefit from an exceptional concentration of experts through daily contact with leaders in their fields which include: bioarchaeology, chronology, materials, ancient DNA, museums and collections, experimental and theoretical perspectives. We have projects on all inhabited continents and win research funding from a wide range of national and international sources. We are ranked number one in the world for archaeology in the QS Top Universities World Rankings by Subject for two years in a row, 2017 and 2018. We offer a range of innovative laboratories and benefit from long-standing partnerships with the University museums. We are also particularly fortunate that the legacies of eminent archaeologists who have called Oxford home, including Sir Arthur Evans and Lawrence of Arabia, continue to provide inspiration to both students and staff.

News and Announcements


Discovering the daughter of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan; the world's first ancient human hybrid

A paper published yesterday in Nature 'The genome of the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father'  presents the extraordinary findings of the genetic analysis of a 2.5cm long bone fragment discovered by Samantha Brown whilst she was studying for her MSc Archaeological Science here at the School. 

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Silver and the Origins of the Viking Age: Congratulations to Dr Jane Kershaw

Congratulations to Dr Jane Kershaw who has received a 2018 European Research Council Starting Grant. The 5-year project is entitled Silver and the Origins of the Viking Age, and will investigate a pivotal episode of cultural expansion in Eurasia, examining where, when and why the Viking Age began, through an interdisciplinary analysis of Viking silver.


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Analysis of strontium isotopes reveals new insight into the communities who built Stonehenge.

Results of a School led, collaborative study published in Nature Scientific Reports this week emphasise the importance of inter-regional connections involving the movement of both materials and people in the construction and use of Stonehenge. The study combined radiocarbon-dating with new developments in archaeological analysis, pioneered by lead author Christophe Snoeck during his doctoral research in the School of Archaeology at Oxford.

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UNIQ Summer School highlights for 2018

This week staff from the School of Archaeology had the pleasure of contributing several lectures and practical sessions to the UNIQ Summer School for A-Level state school students. Human Sciences already offer one of the most diverse and individual courses and archaeology was a natural fit into the week's events which focus on studying humans at a variety of levels from evolution to societal interactions to the physiology of the body. 

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Canine burial. Photograph by Del Baston, courtesy of the Center for American Archeology

Ancient American dogs almost completely wiped out by arrival of European breeds

Using genetic information from 71 archaeological dog remains from North America and Siberia, an international team led by researchers at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London, and Durham University showed that ‘native’ (or ‘pre-contact’) American dogs, which arrived alongside people over 10,000 years ago and dispersed throughout North and South America, possessed genetic signatures unlike dogs found anywhere else in the world.

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Atlas of Hillforts wins Esri UK Award for Community Engagement

Congratulations to John Pouncett of the School of Archaeology for his critical role in winning the Esri UK Customer Success Award for Community Engagement for the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland project.  The Atlas uses Esri's GIS mapping software and beat off strong competition from projects at Atkins and Transport for London. A research team based at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and University College Cork devloped the Atlas and it has been helped by citizen scientists from across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Ireland, experiencing over 200000 visitors to the site in its first eleven months. 

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Reconstructing South Africa's climate over the last two million years

In a new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, a team of scientists working at Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, including former School of Archaeology DPhil student Michaela Ecker and current Head of School Professor Julia Lee-Thorp, used multiple proxies to reconstruct the past climate and environment in the interior of southern Africa over the last two million years.

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Economic health of the Roman Empire revealed in analysis of lead in ice core from Greenland

In a new study published in PNAS, a team of scientists, including Professor Andrew Wilson, Professor Mark Pollard, and Elisabeth Thompson of the School of Archaeology used ice samples from the North Greenland Ice Core Project (NGRIP) to measure, date and analyze European lead emissions that were captured in Greenland ice between 1100 BC and AD 800. Their results provide new insights for historians about how European civilizations and their economies fared over time.

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Homo sapiens in Arabia 85,000 years ago

Congratulations to Huw Groucutt and Eleanor Scerri who are part of a team of researchers whose paper in Nature: Ecology & Evolution demonstrates that Homo sapiens reached Al Wusta, a site in Saudi Arabia, by 85ka years ago. The evidence from Al Wusta shows that the early dispersals of H. sapiens out of Africa were not limited to the Levantine woodlands sustained by winter rainfall, but extended deep into the Arabian interior where enhanced summer rainfall created semi-arid grasslands containing abundant fauna and perennial lakes. 

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Dawn of England: Viking Archaeology

Dr Jane Kershaw gives a full length interview to BBC Somerset's Charlie Taylor, about new evidence that suggests King Alfred colluded with Vikings.  Listen to it here.

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Download this app to help archaeologists explore the origins of Easter & the Easter Bunny

A multidisciplinary team, including members of the Palaeobarn team at the School of Archaeology, have developed an app 'Ancient Animals' as part of their AHRC funded project Exploring the Easter E.g.: Shifting Baselines and Changing Perceptions of Cultural and Biological “Aliens".

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Oldest DNA from Africa offers clues to mysterious ancient culture

Ancient DNA extracted from 15,000 year old human burials in Morocco show genetic profiles implying substantial Near Eastern and sub-Saharan African-related ancestries (63.5% and 36.5%, respectively). This is so far the oldest human DNA evidence from Africa and provides genomic evidence for contacts between North Africa and the Near East, as well as areas south of the Sahara, long before the Neolithic transition (which occurred at least four millennia later).

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