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Free Archaeology & Ancient History Online Courses for 2016

Expand your horizons by taking a free online course this year!

How many times have you wished you could study archaeology or ancient history but have had to set aside those dreams due to a lack of finances or suitable classes in your area?

Well, thanks to the magic of online learning, you needn’t let distance or budgetary concerns stop you from indulging your passion for the past. Web-based MOOCs (or massive open online courses) have helped transform education, making it easier (and cheaper) for people across the world to enroll on a wide range of academic or professional courses offered by some the world’s leading universities and E-learning companies, and granting them the freedom to schedule their studies around their jobs, families, and other commitments.

For many of these courses, the only requirements are a PC or mobile device, access to the internet, and a thirst for knowledge. But please check each course’s requirements before signing up as not all courses are suitable for beginners and some may require access to additional resources.

Lara Croft's desk

Lara Croft’s desk (Image credit: Crystal Dynamics)

While some of these courses are self-paced and are available on demand, others have official start (and end) dates. But don’t let this deter you from signing up! Many courses allow you to register after the session has started, there is no penalty for dropping out of a course mid-session, and some courses will even allow you to access their content after the official class session has ended. So it’s worth enrolling on any courses that interest you, even if you can’t commit to completing the required reading or assignments within the allotted time frame.

Furthermore, quite a few of the courses listed on this page offer verified certificates or statements of participation, albeit for an additional fee. Please note that the fees and conditions of eligibility vary between providers and that very few MOOC providers are in a position to offer full degree programmes or award course credits.

Students hoping to work towards a Bachelor or Masters degree would be better off visiting The Open University website or applying for the distance-learning degree programmes currently offered by the University of Leicester.

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Below you will find an alphabetical list of the archaeology and ancient history courses that are being offered in 2016. New courses will be added to the list as they become available.

Please note that all information was correct at the time of publication and that courses can be cancelled or rescheduled at the providers’ discretion.

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Ancient Egypt

  • Starts: May 2016
  • Duration: Unknown
  • Description: This course has been developed by Dr. David Silverman, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania and relies on a series of lectures and artefacts from Penn Museum’s Egyptian Section to introduce students to the art, history, and culture of Ancient Egypt.
  • Certificates Available?: No
  • Provider: Coursera

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Ancient Egypt: A History in Six Objects

  • Starts: TBA
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Description: This course provides an introduction to ancient Egyptian history, using six items from the collections of The Manchester Museum, which have been carefully chosen to reflect the development of the dynastic age through their origin, manufacture, decoration, and use.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: Coursera

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Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

  • Starts: 6th January 2016
  • Duration: 17 weeks
  • Description: This course developed by Harvard University delves into classic literature (including works by Homer, Plato, and Sappho) and explores what it meant to be a hero in Ancient Greek times.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: edX

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Ancient Greeks

  • Starts: Self-paced, on demand
  • Duration: 7 weeks (self-paced)
  • Description: This course developed by Wesleyan University explores the key historical events and personalities in Greek history, from the Bronze Age to the death of Socrates in 399 BCE.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: Coursera

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Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime

  • Starts: 1st February 2016
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Description: This course developed by the University of Glasgow’s Trafficking Culture Project aims to give students a better understanding of the nature of antiquities trafficking and art crime, the effects these crimes have on local communities, and what scholars, police forces, and lawmakers are doing to protect our heritage.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: FutureLearn

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Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

  • Starts: TBA
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Description: This course offered by the University of Southampton explores how ancient artefacts, written evidence, excavation and digital technologies are transforming understanding of the Roman harbour city of Portus.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: FutureLearn

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Art and Archaeology of Ancient Nubia

  • Starts: TBA
  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • Description: This course developed by Emory University explores the geography and archaeology of Nubia, Egypt’s neighbour to the south and home to a series of often overlooked civilizations.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: Coursera

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BLUE: A Symposium Exploring Aspects of Life in Ancient Egypt

  • Starts: Self-paced, on demand
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Description: A series of free lectures by world-renowned Egyptologists that explore the art and culture of this ancient civilization through the theme of the colour blue.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: Udemy

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China: Civilization and Empire

  • Starts: Self-paced, on demand
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Description: This five-part series of courses developed by Harvard University explores the development of Chinese civilization, from the Neolithic period up to the fall of the Qing Dynasty at the turn of the twentieth century.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: edX

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Early Middle Ages, 284 – 1000

  • Starts: Self-paced, on demand
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Description: This course examines the major developments in the political, social, and religious history of Western Europe from 284 – 1000 AD. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the “Dark Ages”,  Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.
  • Certificates Available?: No
  • Provider: Open Yale Courses

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Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

  • Starts: TBA
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Description: Developed by Newcastle University, this course explores the archaeology of the most heavily fortified frontier in the Roman empire and the daily lives of both the Roman soldiers stationed there and the region’s indigenous populations.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: FutureLearn

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Introduction to Ancient Greek History

  • Starts: Self-paced, on demand
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Description: This introductory course by Yale University traces the development of Greek civilization as manifested in the political, intellectual, and cultural achievements from the Bronze Age to the end of the classical period.
  • Certificates Available?: No
  • Provider: Open Yale Courses

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Roman Architecture

  • Starts: TBA
  • Duration: 12 weeks
  • Description: This course was developed by Yale University and serves as an introduction to the great buildings and engineering marvels of Rome and its empire, with an emphasis on urban planning and individual monuments and their decoration.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: Coursera

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Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds: Maritime Archaeology

  • Starts: 1st February 2016
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Description: Developed by the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime  Archaeology, the course dives into the fascinating field of maritime archaeology, exploring underwater landscapes from the ancient Mediterranean to the prehistoric North Sea, and examining shipwrecks from the Indian Ocean to the Americas’ Pacific coast.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: FutureLearn

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Superpowers of the Ancient World: The Near East

  • Starts: TBA
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Description: This course from the University of Liverpool explores four ancient Near-Eastern cultures (including the Ancient Egyptians and Hittites) and looks at how they interacted with each other some 3,500 years ago.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: FutureLearn

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Warfare and Weapons in Ancient Egypt

  • Starts: 11th January 2016
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Description: Led by expert Egyptologist and author, Dr. Joyce Tyldesley, this course explores the art, archaeology, and technology of Egyptian warfare and weapons from the Predynastic Period to the end of the New Kingdom.
  • Certificates Available?: No
  • Provider: Canvas Network

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Western Civilization: Ancient and Medieval Europe

  • Starts: 14th March 2016
  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • Description: This course from Arizona State University will provide a general outline of European history from Ancient times through 1500 AD, covering a variety of European historical periods and cultures, including Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Celtic, Frankish and others.
  • Certificates Available?: Yes
  • Provider: edX

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If you’re thirsty for more and are looking for some bite-sized courses to keep your brain cells buzzing, check out the wealth of free online resources on offer on the Open University’s Open Learn website. You can also find some older open-access material on ancient history and art history over on Saylor.Org, including courses on the art of Ancient Egypt and the Near East, early Christian and Byzantine art, and Roman architecture.

Alternatively, if you’d rather just read a book or two on the subject, you can find a great selection of books over at The Archaeology of Tomb Raider’s US and UK stores.

Last updated on 11th January 2016


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About Kelly M (396 Articles)
A Gibraltarian-born blogger, gamer, and archaeology enthusiast with a passion for languages and wildlife conservation. Tweets under the username @TombRaiderArch and runs the official fansite, The Archaeology of Tomb Raider.

2 Comments on Free Archaeology & Ancient History Online Courses for 2016

  1. pfeffernusshexe // January 22, 2016 at 19:29 //

    Hi Kelly,

    Thank you so much for this valuable post. I’ve been a Tomb Raider fan since the series started and I am currently studying archeology. Some of these online classes are a great addition to my regular courses at university. Even my husband, who is into fiction writing, found a free online course about writing and is very happy with it so far. I really love your blog in general and I’m glad I found it. There are a lot of fan blogs out there, but archeology of tomb raider really stands out. Your posts are more than just a celebration of fandom for it’s own sake, but brim with serious information and love for archeology, not just the series. That’s pretty awesome.

    Greetings from Germany

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. 🙂 There are loads of great fan sites out there so I had to find a way to carve a little niche for myself. The archaeology-heavy articles are by far the most fun and rewarding to work on.

      And I’m glad the list of courses has been useful. There’s loads of courses on other subjects on those sites (especially on Coursera, Future Learn and Udemy) so there’s plenty to keep anyone busy. ^_^

      Like

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