Ph.D. in Archaeology and the Ancient World

The requirements for a Ph.D. in Archaeology and the Ancient World combine rigor (to ensure adequate training in the multiple fields the subject requires) and flexibility (to allow students space to evolve and pursue their own research interests).  Requirements involve coursework and examinations in archaeology, ancient history and the relevant ancient and modern languages, and, of course, the writing of a dissertation.

All students in the program have the same base requirements, but it is understood that the selection of certain courses and the setting of certain examinations (for example, in ancient history or ancient languages) will follow the primary research orientation of the student, be it an interest in the Mediterranean, Egypt, or ancient Western Asia.

For general guidelines to Brown Ph.D. programs and details of the Graduate School's application process, visit

Additional information for current students is available on the Useful Site, at (password protected).

Coursework Requirements

Course requirements are normally completed in the first three years of the program. Graduates are expected to take a regular course-load of four courses per semester (three courses in terms when a student is teaching or holding a proctorship). A minimum of 24 tuition units is required by the Graduate School.

Students are required to take:
  • at least two courses in Mediterranean archaeology (prehistoric, Greek, Roman, medieval)
  • at least two courses in Near Eastern or Egyptian archaeology
  • at least two courses that explore theoretical, methodological or comparative issues in archaeology

Serving as a Teaching Assistant in a relevant course is allowed to count towards fulfilling these distributional requirements. All these courses should normally be taken at the graduate seminar (2000 and above) level, though other upper-division (1000-level) courses available for graduate credit may be taken with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Click here for a list of courses associated with the Joukowsky Institute; other relevant courses are taught through the Departments of Anthropology, Classics, Egyptology and Assyriology, History of Art and Architecture, and Religious Studies, among others.

Not required, but strongly encouraged, is the acquisition (through formal coursework or other means) of additional archaeological skill sets, such as expertise in Geographical Information Systems, faunal, botanical or osteological analyses, geomorphology, ceramic analysis, materials science, and so on.

Ancient History

The archaeological study of the ancient world demands a developed sense of historical and cultural context.  To that end, graduates in the Joukowsky Institute are required to take a diagnostic examination and are encouraged to take coursework in this important area.

Diagnostic Examination

Admitted Ph.D. students take a diagnostic examination in ancient history at the very beginning of their first year (normally immediately before the first day of classes).  The two-hour examination is a relatively elementary and straightforward fact-based test which seeks to assess the state of students’ knowledge at the inception of their graduate careers; the test emphasizes identifications of individuals, events and sources, together with chronological and geographical understanding.  There will be some choice among the questions set.  Results of this examination (which is not repeated, whatever the outcome) will be used to counsel students about appropriate future coursework or supplementary reading.

Students will normally elect to undertake this diagnostic examination in either Greek and Roman or Egyptian and Near Eastern history.  They can petition the DGS to undertake some other combination (such as Greek and Egyptian history) if a compelling argument can be made.  In any case, admitted students should notify the DGS as soon as possible about their choice.  Incoming students will need to prepare for this test prior to their arrival at Brown.  Material on the examinations is all drawn from the ‘pool’ of information contained in a small number of readily available, short textbooks on the reading list recommended by the program.  This reading list and some sample questions are available on the Joukowsky Institute’s Useful Site (password protected).

Language Study

The Ph.D. in Archaeology and the Ancient World requires demonstration of reading competency in four languages, in almost all cases two ancient and two modern.  In certain circumstances, in which a sound rationale exists, a student may be permitted by the DGS, in consultation with the Graduate Language Advisor, to qualify in three modern languages and one ancient language (or vice versa). Competency is demonstrated by passing written translation examinations (with dictionary) in each language.  It is expected that students will work through these examinations systematically, as a rule attempting at least one exam or enrolling in a relevant language class each term, from the time of their arrival at Brown.  Students may attempt the exams more than once, but no more than three times (unless by petition to the DGS).  It is also possible to meet the ancient language requirement, in one language, by completion of a course that represents third-semester competency, with a grade of “B” or above.

Students are required to have satisfied at least one language requirement by the end of their first year.  All language requirements, except in extraordinary circumstances and by permission of the DGS, must be satisfied by the end of the third year, and before the student proceeds to write the dissertation prospectus and form a doctoral committee.  The goal of these requirements is to ensure a professional level of competence, providing both necessary research skills and the ability to teach introductory and intermediate undergraduate courses in ancient languages.

Ancient Languages

No coursework in the ancient languages is required, but it is strongly recommended.  Which languages are most appropriate for study will vary depending on a student’s particular set of interests. For most Mediterranean archaeologists, Greek and Latin are essential as preparation for research and teaching. Students in Egyptian and Western Asian fields, by contrast, might select, for example, Akkadian, Coptic, Classical Hebrew, Hittite, Middle Egyptian, or Phoenician.  Early consultation with the Graduate Language Advisor and DGS in these matters is strongly advised. Each test, with dictionary, will take three hours. The exams are based on a set of texts that has been agreed in advance with the faculty member setting and grading them.

Modern Languages

French and German are the "default" modern languages for the Ph.D. in Archaeology and the Ancient World.  However, in consultation with the Graduate Language Advisor, students may ask to substitute other languages (e.g. Arabic, Italian, Modern Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian), if there is a sound academic case for doing so.  Passages for the two-hour modern language examinations are drawn from existing scholarly literature in the field of archaeology.  Intensive reading courses in French and German are occasionally offered during the academic year or in the summer, though it may be necessary to make special arrangements with the instructor to audit classes.

Archaeological Examinations

There are two sets of archaeological examinations for the Ph.D. in Archaeology and the Ancient World: the Field Examinations and the Preliminary Examinations. The Field Examinations (except in extraordinary circumstances and by permission of the DGS) must be taken by the end of the second year.  The Preliminary Examinations (except in extraordinary circumstances and by permission of the DGS) must be taken by the end of the third year.  By the time students present themselves for this second set of examinations they will normally have successfully fulfilled their language and course requirements, the Ancient History Diagnostic Examination, and the Field Examinations.  Students must pass this set of exams in order to achieve Candidacy and move on to dissertation research.

Each set of examinations aims to achieve a quite different end from the other.  The Field Examination is designed to ensure breadth of knowledge and competency in teaching in this diverse field of study.  The Preliminary Examination is intended to sharpen and intensify student knowledge of a more delimited range of subjects, in preparation for dissertation research.

Field Examinations*

These examinations are designed to encourage students to explore and to acquire much of the ‘raw material’ of their trade: the emphasis here is on ensuring basic knowledge of major sites, monuments and works of art, while simultaneously encouraging exploration of key themes and problems, as well as of archaeological theory and historiography; the scope is deliberately broad.  On completion of this set of exams, students should possess both a solid working foundation, and a critical appreciation, of the fields elected.

Students will elect four from the following six fields:
    1) Mediterranean Prehistory
    2) Greek Archaeology and Art
    3) Roman Archaeology and Art
    4) Egyptian Archaeology and Art
    5) Near Eastern Archaeology and Art
    6) Theory and Historiography (required for all students)
    *Note: Links are to the password-protected Useful Site

In choosing their four fields, students are encouraged not only to select areas with which they are already familiar, but also some of those where they would benefit from exposure to entirely new material and disciplinary traditions, or in which additional strengthening would be advantageous.

In each of three of these fields, students will take (a) a three-hour examination, consisting of essay questions, derived from a small number of pre-announced handbooks and from readings compiled by the student on central and provocative topics in each selected field, and (b) a 30-minute oral exam devoted to image identification and analysis, with images drawn from a small, predetermined set of books.  (There will be no image identification component for the examination in Theory and Historiography.)  The examination of the first of these three fields (including both essay questions and associated image identifications) will take place during the Reading Period of the Fall semester of the second year; the second will take place before Spring semester classes start; and the third will take place during the Reading Period of the Spring semester of the second year.

For one additional field, students will create an annotated class syllabus, either of an introductory or thematically-organized course in the selected field.  This syllabus should be accompanied by a short statement explaining the structure and content of the course, as well as their selections of readings and assignments. A draft of the syllabus should be submitted for discussion with relevant faculty members by mid-October of the second year; the due date for final submission of this syllabus is the end of October in the second year.

Students will work to prepare for these examinations with all relevant faculty members in or associated with the Joukowsky Institute, who will also set the examinations and assess student performance.  A follow-up meeting, involving the DGS and other faculty, will take place before the end of the Spring semester to discuss the results of the Field Examinations and to clarify and amplify any areas of concern stemming from them. 

A weak or failing component in any field of this examination will necessitate a retake of that field, including both the image identifications and the essay questions.  Retakes will be scheduled as promptly as possible, but all such retakes will be scheduled to take place prior to October 1 of the third year.  If this retake too were unsuccessful, a third attempt would be allowed only at the discretion of the core faculty of the Joukowsky Institute, following a thorough investigation of the student’s overall performance in the program.  Further failure would result in termination from the Institute’s doctoral program.

Preliminary Examinations

The Preliminary Examinations serve as a general springboard to the dissertation, facilitating the sometimes-problematic transition from taught coursework to independent dissertation research.  Students are required to identify two substantial topics/themes that will feed and complement their targeted research interests.

Students should compose a Prelim committee of at least three faculty members (at least one of whom must be affiliated with the Joukowsky Institute).  In consultation with these individuals, they should develop a proposal outlining their plans for the Preliminary Examinations and detailed bibliographies on the topics of their choice; this must be completed no later than the midpoint of the term prior to that in which they plan to sit the examination.  They should also meet regularly with the members of their committee. 

Performance at this stage of the student career is assessed through a combination of written and oral work. 

One topic/theme will be assessed on the basis of a research paper emerging from the student’s reading in this area; the precise nature of the paper will be evolved in consultation with the committee. Prelim papers are expected to be longer than a regular research paper written for a graduate seminar, but they should not exceed 50 pages, including bibliography. A draft of the research paper is due at the beginning of March. The final version is normally due by Monday of the week in which the Spring Reading Period commences.

After the paper is submitted and has been read by the committee, an oral examination will be held on both the written paper and the other topic/theme.  This will be an examination scheduled to take place during the Spring Reading Period, lasting up to three hours, and attended by the full Prelim committee, with questions revolving around the exam bibliography and other relevant issues raised both by the student and by the committee.  If the student’s performance in the oral exam is satisfactory, the discussion at its end should turn to potential dissertation plans.

In the event of failure on all or part of the examination, the timing and extent of the retake will be at the discretion of the DGS and members of the Prelim committee.  A third attempt, if necessary, would be allowed only at the discretion of the core faculty of the Joukowsky Institute.  Successful completion of the Preliminary Examination normally leads to Candidacy by the end of the third year, provided all other coursework and language requirements have been fulfilled.

Teaching Experience

Because Brown's doctoral programs train graduate students to become educators as well as researchers, teaching is an integral part of graduate education. All doctoral students in the Archaeology and the Ancient World graduate program are required to train as teaching assistants for at least two semesters. In consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, this requirement may be fulfilled during any of the years in the program. Additional opportunities exist for advanced graduate students to design and teach their own course, either within the Joukowsky Institute or via one of the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Opportunities for sixth-year support.

Typically, doctoral students alternate teaching and proctoring positions in their second, third, and fourth years.  For more on these opportunities, visit the Financial Support page of this website.

Fieldwork and Museum Experience

Fieldwork or museum experience are not part of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree, but such practical engagement with the field is strongly encouraged and every effort is made to facilitate student opportunities in these areas.

In practice, almost all students invariably spend time in the field, both before and during their graduate career.  Fieldwork can, and should, take various forms and ideally exposes graduates to a wide range of methodologies and techniques, including excavation, regional survey, artifact analysis, and the restudy of material from previous projects. Students are particularly encouraged to become involved in projects appropriate to their individual research concerns. Financial support towards summer fieldwork expenses (especially travel) is available from the Graduate School and the Joukowsky Institute.

The acquisition of museum or other collections-based experience is a growing dimension in graduate training in archaeology.  The Joukowsky Institute houses a small study collection of artifacts (including, pottery, metalwork, and figurines) and a substantial numismatic collection; these are available for student teaching and research.  Joukowsky Institute students benefit from the proximity of the Rhode Island School of Design Museum and other regional collections (such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), together with Brown’s own assets, such as courses and exhibits coordinated through the Haffenreffer Museum and the M.A. in Public Humanities at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage.

The Dissertation

After completion of the Preliminary Examinations and the achievement of Candidacy, students must turn to forming their dissertation committee. A primary advisor and other potential members of the proposed committee must be discussed with the DGS at the start of the Fall semester of year four. The dissertation committee should normally have at least four members (including a chair), at least two of whom must be drawn from the affiliated faculty of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.  A first draft of a dissertation prospectus is due by mid-October of the Fall semester, with a revised, final version due in early December.  The dissertation committee, in company with the DGS, will meet with the student during the Reading Period of the Fall semester to approve the dissertation prospectus..

The official Graduate School rubric on the dissertation requirement reads as follows:  ‘The candidate must present a dissertation on a topic related to his or her area of specialization that presents the results of original research and gives evidence of excellent scholarship. The dissertation must be approved by the professor or committee under whose direction it is written and by the Graduate Council. All requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within five years after advancement to candidacy.’

Dissertating students are expected to submit a complete draft of one chapter of their dissertation advisor prior to the first day of classes in the Fall semester of the fifth year. Advisors are expected to return the draft with comments by the end of September. Decisions about additional deadlines for chapter submission will be worked out between the student and dissertation advisor. The timeline element of the dissertation prospectus should be regularly updated, and it will be reassessed in meetings with the DGS as well as the dissertation advisor at the start of each semester. Students are required to submit the final draft of their thesis to their dissertation committee no later than four weeks before the planned date of defense.  Candidates will deliver a short public presentation of their work, followed immediately by an oral defense conducted by the dissertation committee.

Additional information on Graduate School deadlines and forms is available at


Within the parameters of these requirements, each student’s progress through the graduate program will be, and should be, quite distinct.  Advising on a student’s particular trajectory will be offered by all Joukowsky Institute faculty, and coordinated by the DGS.

Performance Evaluation

In accordance with the requirements of the Brown Graduate School, the DGS evaluates individual student performance each semester, in consultation with both Joukowsky Institute faculty and all others with whom the student is currently working or taking classes.  Faculty are asked to comment on the student’s overall academic performance and capabilities for future success in the field. 

The student is notified, in a letter from the DGS, of the results of this assessment after every semester and, if it is favorable, he or she is encouraged to continue his or her progress toward the Ph.D.  A less than fully positive assessment may result in the DGS, after consultation with other faculty, reporting to the Graduate School a downgrade of the student’s official status from “Good” to “Satisfactory” or to “Warning”.  

If a student’s status remains “Warning” after one semester, a more formal review is undertaken, also involving the Joukowsky Institute core faculty. A student who has been on “Warning” status for two semesters will be withdrawn from the Graduate School for academic reasons.

For more information on the Graduate School's regulations regarding academic standing, see "Academic Standing" or the Graduate School Handbook.

A.M. in Archaeology and the Ancient World

The candidate who wishes to qualify for a Master's degree in Archaeology and the Ancient World must accumulate eight course credits, including at least two seminars. A thesis must also be presented to and approved by at least two faculty members (the thesis director and a second reader). Of these, the thesis director will normally be drawn from the Institute faculty.

The Master's degree can only be conferred to students currently pursuing doctoral study at Brown University. Applications from non-Brown students interested in a terminal Master's degree cannot be considered at this time.

Former requirements for Ph.D. in Old World Archaeology and Art

A description of the previous (prior to 2006) Ph.D. requirements is available here.