Study Archaeology

What is Archaeology?

While archaeology has been the subject of many action-packed classic films like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the real-life discipline of archaeology is far more exciting, richer and diverse than anything you have seen on screen.

At its heart, archaeology investigates some of the biggest questions facing humanity. As a species, how did we get to be what we are today? Archaeology and its related disciplines, including evolution, anthropology and palaeontology, study the full gamut of human history, from our origins in tropical Africa and to our long physical and intellectual evolutionary journey.

Forensic archaeology involves the study of human remains to delve deeper into these archaeological questions. Typically involving excavation and firsthand field work, forensic archaeology may investigate ancient burial practices and burial places, indirect and direct sources of archaeological evidence, DNA, anatomical reconstructions and more.

Archaeology and anthropology may explore a number of key areas of research into the lives of past societies and peoples, including cosmology, ritual, ecology, economy and technology, trade and exchange, politics and governance, colonial encounters, material culture, art and performance, heritage and land rights.

Archaeology recognises and respects a diversity of knowledge systems, acting at the intersection of social science, science, culture, art and technology.

The study of archaeology may focus on almost any time or place throughout ancient and modern history. Broad areas of archaeology and related research include Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, modern Australian history, European archaeology, Asian archaeology, maritime and coastal archaeology, and more.

Discover JCU's
Bachelor of Arts

Develop skills in archaeological site recording and conservation. Participate in field trips to investigate heritage site excavations, and Aboriginal Australian rock art sites. Learn the fundamentals of archaeology.

What does an archaeologist do?

Archaeologists are lucky to have incredibly diverse and rewarding professional careers. As an archaeologist, your work may vary greatly from one day to the next.

Yes, you will probably be digging at some point. But, your study of history and humanity will also lead you to spend time in laboratories, analysing findings or preserving artefacts, as well as sitting behind a desk, writing reports, interpreting data and conducting additional research.

Archaeology is undertaken in many different contexts. You may find yourself climbing aboard a shipwreck, excavating artefacts or descending deep into the earth in your study of the rise and fall of civilisations.

Or, you may focus on more contemporary contexts, assisting industries such as development, resources, agriculture and others to identify historical artefacts and preserve important sites for posterity.

Archaeologists must balance both practical work and academic research questions.

As an archaeologist, you will require a solid understanding of the value and significance of sites or artefacts to different stakeholders. You must interact robustly with ethical issues, and demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of diverse fieldwork and laboratory approaches, techniques and constraints.

What jobs are there in archaeology?

Jobs in archaeology can be very specialist or fairly wide-ranging. Museums, galleries and research institutions may all employ archaeologists. However, as an archaeologist, you may also work as a consultant, lending your expertise to numerous commercial or not-for-profit projects and endeavours.

Mining companies, infrastructure or property developers, farmers and other businesses interacting with the environment may regularly require archaeology services to undertake their core business in a responsible and compliant manner.

The kinds of jobs  you could hold with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Archaeology from JCU may include:

  • Archaeologist
  • Historian
  • Researcher
  • Consultant.

Why study Archaeology at JCU?

To become an archaeologist, you usually need to undertake study through a formal university degree, like the JCU Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Archaeology. JCU Archaeology subjects provide a solid theoretical understanding of the discipline, while also preparing students to work in the real world.

Because archaeology is innately practical, JCU Archaeology students have many opportunities to gain hands-on skills and field experience while completing their studies. As a JCU Archaeology student, you may be able to join several archaeology field and laboratory projects. You may also have the opportunity to complete practical work placements in related organisations.

Studying archaeology through the JCU Bachelor of Arts also gives you a broad skill and knowledge base that can be applied to numerous professions and industries upon graduation.

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Dr Maddy McAllister examining items at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.


Dr Maddy McAllister

Senior Curator Maritime Archaeology, James Cook University and Museum of Tropical Queensland

"The calibre of JCU graduates is exceptional. They have a strong theoretical base that is combined with a willingness to learn the practical, hands-on skills, which are required to work in the industry."



Discover Archaeology at JCU

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