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) and in the Graduate School Handbook.

Diagnostic Exam

Prior to the beginning of coursework in the first year of the program, admitted students will take a two-hour diagnostic ancient history exam. The results of this exam will be used for determining which courses are needed by the incoming student.


Students will take a total of 20 courses while in the program, of which one may be an independent readings course towards preparation of the Preliminary Exam. Distribution requirements for coursework consist of: at least two courses in Mediterranean archaeology (prehistoric, Greek, Roman, medieval); at least two courses in Egyptian or Near Eastern archaeology; at least two courses that explore theoretical, methodological, or comparative issues in archaeology. The distribution requirements can be fulfilled by TAing for relevant courses as well.
Students take four courses per semester in their first year. In the second and third year students take three courses per semester.

Teaching Assistantships/Proctorships

Students who are not on fellowship will hold a teaching position or proctorship every semester. Usually fellowship years are the first and fifth year, meaning that students hold TAships and proctorships, and more rarely serve as teaching fellows, in the second, third, fourth, and sixth years.


The PhD in archaeology requires demonstration of reading competency in four languages, in almost all cases two ancient and two modern. In the case of one language, the requirement can be fulfilled by means of completing a course of 3rd semester level with a grade of B or above; the other languages must be satisfied by passing a sit-down timed translation exam.

Field Exams

The field exams test breadth, and preparation for them allows students to acquire foundational knowledge in several fields. There are four field exams. One is satisfied by means of writing a syllabus for a class in that field. Two or three are satisfied by means of exams. One may be satisfied by taking a course in the relevant field during the first three semesters, provided the course meets certain criteria, as determined by the Director of Graduate Study. Changes in the approved program of graduate study have shifted the deadlines and requirements for Field Exams, and thus students admitted to the program before 2020 may have somewhat different requirements. The fields available for field exams are not flexible. An exam (not a syllabus or course) must be taken in Theory and Historiography. The remaining three fields are chosen from:

  • Mediterranean Prehistory
  • Greek Archaeology and Art
  • Roman Archaeology and Art
  • Near Eastern Archaeology and Art
  • Egyptian Archaeology and Art

Preliminary Exams

The preliminary exams test depth and ordinarily serve as the springboard to the dissertation. Each student identifies two related topics that feed their intended future research. One topic will be the basis of a substantial research paper. The second topic will be the basis of an extensive bibliography with commentary. The written components of the exam are assessed in an oral defense conducted by the assembled faculty of the Institute.

Fieldwork and Museum Experience

Fieldwork and museum or other collections-based experience are important parts of training in archaeology. They are not formal requirements of the PhD program at the Joukowsky Institute. In practice nearly all graduate students both come in with fieldwork experience and continue to work, usually on multiple projects, in the field while students at Brown; museum experience is also common. Fieldwork and museum work are encouraged unless it is felt that participation in such projects is contributing to inadequate quality of work or progress in meeting program requirements.

Participation in Events

Participation in events at the Institute is not a formal requirement of the program, but is generally expected of all members of the community. We regularly hold both academic and social events. You should make every reasonable effort to attend events; we all benefit from the vibrancy of our community and that requires work from all of us. Professionalization events, which are held specifically for graduate students, should be attended unless you have a specific scheduling conflict.

Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus is a formal document of approximately 40 pages that lays out the question, rationale for, previous work towards, and methodology proposed for the dissertation. It is defended orally before the faculty of the Institute.


Candidacy, or “ABD” status, is normally reached after the successful defense of the dissertation prospectus. Advancement to candidacy will be delayed if other requirements, for instance language requirements, have not been fulfilled.


The dissertation is the culminating requirement of the PhD program. The dissertation will present the results of original research and give evidence of excellent scholarship. The writing of the dissertation is the major occupation of the fourth through sixth years. It culminates in a public presentation and a closed-door defense with a chosen committee, usually including at least one outside expert in the student’s field. For May graduation a complete draft is due in February.

Degree Timeline

These milestones represent the changes to the PhD program approved by the Graduate Council in Spring 2020. Students who matriculated prior to 2020 may have chosen to follow the old timeline. Precise dates shift year to year, though never far. A document outlining each year’s specific deadlines is sent by the DGS to all graduate students immediately prior to the first semester each year.

Year 1

Diagnostic exams
Classes - 4 per semester
Pass at least one language exam
Course out of one field exam

Summer 1

Syllabus for field exams

Year 2

Classes - 3 per semester
TA/Proctor both semesters
Semester 1: take one field exam and course out of one if not already complete
Winter: final field exam
Semester 2: prelim abstract
Progress towards languages

Summer 2

Prelim preparation

Year 3

Classes - 3 per semester
TA/Proctor both semesters
Semester 1: Independent Reading course for Prelim
                      Preliminary exam in Reading Period
Semester 2: Prospectus draft due May 1st
                      Defense of prospectus draft before May 31st
Complete language requirements

Summer 3

Revisions to Dissertation Prospectus, due September 1

Year 4

Maintain matriculation by registering for readings course with your intended dissertation advisor (usually ARCH 2980 in Fall, ARCH 2982 in Spring)
TA/Proctor both semesters

Year 5+

Complete draft chapter of dissertation due at start of semester 1, year 5 
Write. Write. Write. Write some more.
Maintain matriculation by registering for independent study course with your intended dissertation advisor (usually ARCH 2982 in Fall of 5th year, ARCH 2983
in all subsequent semesters)

Final Year

Submit defense draft, no later than the end of February

A.M. in Archaeology and the Ancient World

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.