Part I Papers
In the first year, you will choose four papers from any of the following:
This course provides a general introduction to archaeology. Using case studies from across the globe, students are introduced to key thresholds in the human past, including: the origins of the human species, the emergence of culture, the domestication of plants and animals, and the development of social inequalities and leadership. Further themes include the analysis of archaic states and early empires, in addition to the impact of writing systems and the appearance of cities. Students will learn methods and techniques (how archaeologists recover information and artefacts) as well as theory (used to explain how and why change occurs in human societies). Students will gain an understanding of the diverse approaches used to think about the past, from ecological and evolutionary models, to current social theories and the post-colonial critique. The place of archaeological heritage in the modern world is also discussed. This paper is taught through a combination of lectures and practical sessions that give students opportunities to study artefacts from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
This is an undergraduate course that gives Part I students a comprehensive introduction to the methods and practices involved in archaeological field and lab research. This course is made up of a combination of taught lectures, practicals and fieldtrips, which have been arranged to provide introduce archaeological field research on the ground (and from the air), including approaches to surveying and mapping landscapes, the reconstruction of the environment in the past, and the investigation of human life-ways in settlements. The course also introduces the work that takes place after excavation, particularly the investigation of time and dating, and also looking at the analysis of different types of artefacts, including material culture of various types, plant remains, animal remains and human remains.
This paper provides a broad survey of the archaeology and history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and introduces students to key themes and approaches in the study of these two regions. The paper provides outline histories of the regions and introduces the geography, archaeology, society, literature, art, belief systems and mortuary practices of these areas. The integration of archaeological, textual and artistic evidence as complementary sources for interpreting historical cultures is stressed throughout. There will be two lectures per week, one on ancient Egypt and one on Mesopotamia, plus four seminars in which the two regions are compared.
‘Akkadian’, an umbrella term for Babylonian and Assyrian, belongs to the Semitic family and is distantly related to Hebrew and Arabic. Used in and around ancient Iraq for over two thousand years, it is the language of the Gilgamesh Epic, and would have been spoken by Abraham. At one time it was the lingua franca of diplomatic correspondence between Egypt, Anatolia, and Cyprus. Today it is known to us from hundreds of thousands of written sources, mostly clay tablets, many of which are in the British Museum.
Like all languages, Akkadian changed over time. This course will give you a good working knowledge of "Old Babylonian" (c. 2000-1500 BC), and some familiarity with later stages. Readings will include extracts from the lawcode of Hammurabi (1795-1750 BC), the Gilgamesh Epic, the inscriptions of Sennacherib (704-681 BC), and the Cyrus Cylinder; but also letters, a prayer to the gods of the night, and two lullaby-incantations for pacifying crying babies. Most of the set texts will be read in transliteration, but for the inscriptions of Sennacherib you will tackle the original cuneiform. You will also learn to translate into Akkadian from English.
The course is the foundation for further study of the languages and literatures of ancient Mesopotamia, leading to 2nd and 3rd year courses in literature, religion and science.
This paper offers a first-year introduction to Egyptian hieroglyphs. The aim is to acquire knowledge of the fundamentals of the script and grammar of Middle Egyptian, the classical phase of the language which the Egyptians themselves considered canonical; additionally, the course is intended to provide a foundation for future advanced training in Egyptian language. The approach to the study of a dead language such as Egyptian, which belongs to a very different linguistic family from that of most European languages, remains quite different from that of a modern one. Emphasis will be placed on reading, comprehension and translation techniques, without neglecting the cultural framework within which the texts were composed. Given that approaches to the study of ancient Egyptian and certain aspects of its grammar continue to evolve, the course will make use of a combination of resources and tools, ranging from seminal works, such as Sir Alan Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar, to more recent publications. At the end of the year the student should be in a position to read straightforward texts in Middle Egyptian, such as many of the ones in museum collections or which are found on an excavation.
This paper provides a broad introduction to biological anthropology and covers major subject areas such as human origins, adaptation to different environments, life history and genetic diversity. The paper investigates behavioural and gene-environment interactions, and the ecology and adaptations of modern populations in the context of their growth, health and cultural variability. Specific topics covered include the burden of malnutrition and interrelationships with poverty, the role of nature and nurture in shaping human mind, and human communication and cognition. The paper concludes with two special topic modules: 1) what infant chimpanzees teach us about Facebook, and; 2) wildlife conservation in developing countries.
The modern state is the predominant basis on which political authority and power are constructed across the world today. Where there is no modern state, there tends to be civil war or occupation by other states. Where modern states are ineffective, politics is unstable and sometimes violent, and governments struggle to manage the economy. The first section of this paper looks at the origins of the modern state, the arguments that were first used to justify it, and the dangers and dilemmas that the power of the modern state created in politics.
Within modern states, representative democracy has become the predominant form of government in the world. It excites because it appears to offer equality, liberty and self-rule, but it also frequently disappoints in practice as it rarely does realise these values and the goods it promises frequently clash with each other. The second section of the paper looks at the origins of representative democracy in the United States, the paradoxes of the rise of the United States as a democratic society, and the kinds of politics created by representative democracy today in view of the expectations about the ‘rule of the people’ that accompany it.
The final section of the paper examines the coherence and persuasiveness of alternatives to, and critiques of, modern democracy and the state, and the nature of politics as disagreement.
The course aims to introduce students to the subject of International Relations (IR), whose main focus is the nature of politics at the international level. Students will acquire the empirical and conceptual foundations needed to understand a world political system which cannot be accurately described as either pure anarchy or a coherent from of 'global governance'. The starting point is the notion of 'international society', which refers to the set of institutions and common procedures generated by states over the last three and a half centuries in their attempts to achieve some minimal form of co-existence, but which has gradually evolved to include many non-state actors and different levels of activity -diplomatic, economic and cultural, as well as that of military competition. By the end of the course you should be able to have an informed discussion about: the historical origins of the present system; what is distinctive about international politics as opposed to politics inside the state; and the main challenges which confront humanity in the twenty-first century. You will also acquire a basic familiarity with the main theories needed to think analytically - and critically - about the idea of international society and the behaviour of the actors which constitute it.
Social Anthropology addresses the really big question – what does it mean to be human? – by taking as its subject matter the full range of human social and cultural diversity. What does this diversity tell us about the fundamental bases and possibilities of human social and political life, and how contemporary global changes manifest themselves in people’s lives across the world? In this paper you will learn how such taken-for-granted categories as gender, ethnicity, sexuality, economy, politics, and the state are subject to radical cultural variation, and how everyday matters such as food, clothing, work, and trade may be bound up with religious and other symbolic meanings that vary between societies. You will also learn about the main kinds of social theory developed by anthropologists in response to the challenge of understanding this diversity, and about the distinctive forms of ethnographic field research anthropologists use in order to gain first-hand knowledge of the societies they study. To this end we look closely at two very different core ethnographic texts: a study of a girls’ initiation ceremony from central Africa, and an account of conversion to Christianity in highland Papua New Guinea.
The course introduces students to the discipline of sociology in two parts. In the Michaelmas term students are thoroughly acquainted with core sociological concepts and concerns (e.g. class, bureaucracy, social solidarity, social change). We do this through a critical engagement with the ideas of three central figures in the history of modern sociological thought: Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Towards the end of Michaelmas and throughout Lent, we build on the foundations laid by the classical theorists and develop a systematic analysis of key institutions and aspects of modern societies including: the modern state and the rise of nationalism; citizenship and the welfare state; the media and public life; class and inequality; gender and the family. We conclude with a broader reflection on the changing nature of modern societies in our contemporary global age.
It is also possible to borrow the following subject from the Psychological & Behavioural Sciences Tripos:
This course aims to introduce a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of psychology. Through studying this course, students will develop their understanding of how the different approaches address specific topics within psychology. Topics are selected such that students without prior training in psychology will not be disadvantaged. After a brief introduction to the history of psychology, and its various sub-disciplines, a series of five broad topics will be explored. Each topic will be covered over three weeks, with research and ideas from different theoretical viewpoints being discussed and compared.