6 weeks

How To Do Archaeology

Have you always wanted to know how to do archaeology? This step-by-step course will guide you through what archaeologists do - and how you can get involved!

How to join

You can access this course and others in our subscriber series for as little as £5 per month with a DigVentures Subscription. In addition you get priority booking at events and a range of subscriber-only training opportunities to build on what you learn online.

Learn core skills

What do you need to do before, during, and after your dig to ensure the proper standards and methods are used? What’s the point of drawing in the age of digital? What’s with all the string, and funny red and white sticks in the trenches?

Digging is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to doing archaeology, and this course will also provide guidance on pre-excavation research, planning an excavation, running your dig, and the all-important post-excavation responsibilities and long-term care of your site archive. There’s helpful videos, hints and tips in every chapter, plus a section to help you dig deeper into each topic.

Course chapters

The course is structured into six chapters, taking you from the initial research to the operation of the archaeological site, backfilling, and beyond!


First steps

How do archaeologists know where to dig? And how do you set up an archaeological excavation? Week One takes you from project planning through to laying out your trenches, in a few simple steps.


Stratigraphy starter

Before you get in too deep, understanding how an archaeological site is formed will help to make sense of everything you will find in your trench. Week Two is all about recognising archaeological deposits and how to excavate them in a logical order.


In context

Now that you’ve done some archaeology, a thorough approach must be taken to record it. Why? We’ll tell you. How? We’ll explain. Week Three reveals the principles of recording and brings you bang up-to-date with an introduction to DigVentures’ own Digital Dig Team system.


Section perfection

Recording your site isn’t just about the technical data: good visuals are essential. If you excavate but don’t make good and proper drawings and photographs, your name will be mud! Week Four is all about the nuts and bolts of plans, levels and photography, and the reasons we strive for that all-important ‘section perfection’.


Fabulous finds

The process of doing archaeology is scientific, as well as really fun and very educational, but there’s no denying that FINDING SOMETHING is always the cherry on the cake. Material culture and environmental finds are what bring the site to life! Week Five is all about what to do if you find something.


What happens next?

We know now that archaeology isn’t all about the digging, but what happens once the field season comes to an end? Do we simply fill in those trenches and walk away? Of course not – we have a party! And then there is still loads of work to do.

Week 6 provides an introduction to the vital steps that follow as you take a peek into the world of post-excavation analysis.


What will I learn?

Endorsed by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and based on the Archaeology Skills Passport, this course is tailored to teach you the end-to-end process of actually doing archaeology. How do you get started? What happens on site? What do you need to do after the trenches are closed and you’re done in the pub? We’ll explain:

  • What happens before excavation
    • how to locate and identify archaeological sites
    • the different stages of an archaeological project
    • what happens in pre-excavation planning and research
    • what should be included in an archaeological Project Design
  • What happens during excavation
    • how to set up a trench
    • which tools to use, and what techniques are best practice
    • how to identify and recording what you find
    • how to recover artefacts and take environmental samples
  • What happens after the digging is finished
    • analysis of the data and archaeological materials
    • interpretation of the site
    • making the archaeological record accessible
    • what to do with an archaeological archive
How does it work?

This six week course begins as soon as you become a Subscriber – that’s when you can login and start your first chapter.

After that, you can progress at your own pace. You can do your chapters in bite-sized chunks, or in one whopper weekend sitting – whichever you prefer! At the end of each one, you’ll be able to prove your newfound knowledge in a quick quiz.

To help you along the way, we’ve also set up a DigVentures Archaeology Study Group for everyone on the course – it’s where you can say hello to your fellow classmates, discuss what you’re learning together, share your ideas and even call on the DigVentures team for help. It’s entirely optional, but we recommend joining  – it will help you get the most out of the course!

This course is endorsed by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

Is the course accredited or linked to university credits?

The course is endorsed by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, but does not award university credits.

All DV training programmes are built upon the framework of National Occupational Standards (NOS) developed by the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists.

The NOS for archaeological practice defines the range of skills that archaeologists may need to perfect in order to do their job, and provide the perfect framework for training programmes by breaking down a complicated job into a collection of individual skills and tasks. This is very effective for both professional and avocational archaeologists, as it provides a clear roadmap for skills development.

To help that skills development, you can find the individual NOS standards which this course supports in the next FAQ tab. If you would like to record your own skills development, we recommend you use the Archaeology Skills Passport. This has been developed in line with NOS, and provides a simple record book of your learning achievements.

What are the specific learning outcomes covered by this course?

The learning outcomes from this course are defined using National Occupational Standards (NOS). This course supports the Knowledge Requirements for particular units within the NOS for Archaeological Practice. These are:

Will I get a certificate?

If you want one, you will get one! In the last section of the course you will be asked to complete our feedback survey. Feedback will help us to further refine and tailor the course based on which bits you loved, and which bits we need to work on. To get your certificate just complete the survey, then provide a postal address and we’ll pop it in the mail!

How to join

You can access this course and others in our subscriber series for as little as £5 per month with a DigVentures Subscription. In addition you get priority booking at events and a range of subscriber-only training opportunities to build on what you learn online.

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