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Trampling marks on bone from Klipdrift Shelter (c. 60 ka MSA site on the southern Cape)
Archaeology Archaeology is an integrative field that studies the diverse history of human culture and behaviour. Archaeologists at Wits are actively involved in research and the teaching of a broad spectrum of topics including Archaeological theory, Earlier Stone Age, Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age, Iron Age, historical archaeology, achaeometry, excavation and field methods and rock art management.
Archaeology Archaeology is an integrative field that studies the diverse history of human culture and behaviour. Archaeologists at Wits are actively involved in research and the teaching of a broad spectrum of topics including Archaeological theory, Earlier Stone Age, Middle Stone Age, Later Stone Age, Iron Age, historical archaeology, achaeometry, excavation and field methods and rock art management.

Qualification: BScHons

Faculty: Science

Study mode: Full-time


Why study Archaeology?

Archaeology is a truly multidisciplinary and integrative discipline that embraces evidence from a wide array of fields from earth, biological and social sciences to history, anthropology, and ethnography, to explore the intricacies of our past. Through these studies we can better understand what makes us who we are today and how we have adapted to a changing planet.

Why study Archaeology at Wits?

The Wits Archaeology department was recently rated number 38 in the world, and 1st on the African continent in the QS World University rankings. Our department includes a diverse, research active and passionate faculty and post-graduate cohort working on southern African sites and collections spanning millions of years. Wits Archaeaology prides itself on the breadth of its honours experience which includes choices of specialist modules, a dedicated honours field school, inclusion in archaeological research teams and access to world class archaeological resources like the department collections and the Rock Art Research Centre.

Career opportunities available with your honours degree in Archaeology include:

  • Cultural Resource Management (after formal accreditation by ASAPA)
  • Heritage Management (including museum sciences, heritage legislation and policy management)
  • Municipal and governmental consultants on heritage practice
  • Research and lecturing in archaeology departments

The BSc and BA Archaeology Honours degree comprises a research project, two compulsory courses and two elective courses. A student may select any two of the four elective courses on offer.

Compulsory course – Full year

ARCL4025A Research Project: Archaeology NQF credits: 40, NNQF Credit 8, Full-year

A research report on an approved module in Archaeology.

Compulsory course Q1

ARCL4027A Theory of Archaeology NQF credits 20 NNQF Credit 8, Quarter 1

Changing paradigms in archaeology from the old, or traditional (based on narrow inductivism), to new, or processual (based on hypothetic-deductivism), to post- processual approaches (embracing post-modernism, Marxism and cognitive archaeology).

Elective courses Q2 choose ONE of the below courses:

ARCL4022A Archaeology of the last 2000 years NQF credits 20 NNQF Credit 8, Quarter 2, Prof. Alex Schoeman

In this course we examine the archaeology of hunter-gatherer and farming communities who lived in southern Africa during the last two thousand years. Students will be exposed to the major debates regarding the Later Stone Age of southern Africa during the last 2000 years, as well as the occupation of Southern Africa by Farming Communities; these have a bearing on the end of the hunting and gathering way of life, the origins of livestock herding and crop farming, and the formation of modern cultural identities in the sub-continent.

ARCL4018A Archaeometry NQF credits 20 NNQF Credit 8, Quarter 2, Dr Stephen Woodborne

This course will present the theory of radiocarbon dating and help to produce a generation of users who understand the sampling requirements, sample preparation and analysis, and interpretation of radiocarbon dates. The importance of calibration and the limitations presented by multiple intercepts will be emphasised. The importance of radiocarbon fluctuations through time, which is the basis of the calibration of radiocarbon dates, in respect of Earth System Science and elucidating global carbon dynamics will be presented. The course will comprise a theoretical component (lectures), a technical visit to the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) facility at iThemba laboratories, and the possibility the preparation and analysis of their own samples.

Compulsory course Q3

ARCL4016A Archaeology in the Field / Laboratory NQF credits 20 NNQF Credit 8, Quarter 3, Dr Dominic Stratford

At least 30 days of intensive excavation, basic field techniques of recording, curation or analysis and associated laboratory work including faunal analysis and rock art recording.

Elective courses Q4: choose ONE of the below courses:

ARCL4026A Stone Age Archaeology NQF credits 20 NNQF Credit 8, Quarter 4, Prof. Sarah Wurz

Stone Age tool technology is the primary surviving evidence through which ancient thought processes can be investigated. Lithic tools present the end product of extended cognitive and behavioural chains that include raw material selection, reduction methods and putting the final end products to various uses. Lithics have been used to butcher fauna, process shellfish and plant material and as hafted projectile weapons. It has also been used for procedures that might have carried more symbolic weight, including engraving stone, ochre, bone and ostrich eggshell. In this course the complete life history of a selected stone tool type and its cognitive implications is focused upon. The extended sequences of actions involved in producing and applying the specific stone tool type will be examined using the reduction sequence approach, cognigrams and cognitive psychology literature.

ARCL4023A Rock Art Management NQF credits 20 NNQF Credit 8, Quarter 4, Dr Catherine Namono

Intellectual and practical challenges in the management of rock art, including audience, the role of conservation, rights of access, traditional cultural practices, site display, technical aspects of recording, conservation and control of human agency, development and implementation of management plans.

  • A Bachelor of Science degree or equivalent.
  • A pass in the relevant major course at this University or any other university whose programme has been approved by Senate.
  • At least 60% average in the final undergraduate course.

Please note that this is a highly competitive programme and a 60% average does not guarantee admission. 

30 November 2021

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

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Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees Office website also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.