There are 180 credits in the MSc by Research. All masters students take the same pathway of core modules:
‘Research Project’ (full year: 120 credits)
This core module includes a series of compulsory ‘Research skills’ sessions that run throughout the year, culminating in a 25,000-word thesis (120 credits).
Taught through a series of group workshops in the Autumn and Spring semesters, this module provides you with essential discipline-specific and key transferable skills including research design, project management and planning, data collection and analysis, written, oral and visual communication of research, and key IT skills. It is assessed by means of a ‘Research Portfolio’ which you build up through the year, as preparation for your independent research project. The course culminates in our annual Postgraduate Archaeology Conference, which is organised by our MSc and MA students (with staff support), where you will present your research to a wide and supportive audience.
The 25,000-word thesis will be on an archaeological topic of your choice, where you will undertake advanced research using primary scientific analysis of environmental or material archaeological evidence, and critical appreciation of the wider scholarship in your field. You will be provided with guidance and supervision from one or more members of staff, and your thesis will also be assessed by an independent external examiner.
‘Special Topic in Archaeology’ 1 and 2
These ‘Special Topic’ modules enable you to gain advanced knowledge and understanding of specific areas of archaeological science, both Bioarchaeology and Archaeological Materials, and other areas of archaeology by period or theme. You will choose your special topics in collaboration with the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor and supervisor.
Topics will be taught individually or in small groups through seminars, tutorials and laboratory sessions, assessed through a combination of written essays and assignments, or practical lab tests and reports, as appropriate to the subject. They may be taught through participation in undergraduate lectures or practicals in addition to following a course of guided reading and study under the supervision of a member of staff.
Some potential topics are shown below, but special topics can often be created to suit your individual needs and interests – please contact the department before making your application to discuss your specific requirements, and the topics that may be offered in any particular year.
Potential available topics
This is a small selection of the special topic modules that may be offered at MA/MSc level. The themes discussed in each of these special topics are tailored to the interests of the participating students.
Many current debates in archaeology, ranging from the origins of agriculture and social complexity to the rise of urban centres, rely on ideas concerning the production and consumption of plants. This "special topic" module introduces the theory and method necessary to undertake archaeobotanical research. Core topics include the identification of crops and wild plant remains, issues of preservation and recovery, analytical approaches to the interpretation of archaeobotanical data and the preservation of archaeobotanical results. The module has a strong practical component, covering the major stages of archeobotanical investigation, from on-site recovery to sample sorting, identification, quantification and data analysis. Principles underlying analytical techniques and broader interpretation are the focus of the seminars.
Animal remains are one of the most common finds on archaeological sites and their analysis can provide a wealth of information about what people ate in the past but also about human systems of trade, economics, social structure and even ideology. This "special topic" module introduces the aims and methods necessary to undertake zooarchaeological research. Major topics include the identification of vertebrate (mammal, bird and fish) remains, techniques of ageing and sexing, issues of bone modification, preservation and recovery, analytical techniques for reconstructing animal-human relationships, and requirements for reporting on zooarchaeological material. These skills will be put into practice as you work together to assess a zooarchaeological assemblage.
Reconstructing Ancient Technologies
This "special topic" consists of a number of case studies of production at various times in the past and in different geographical locations. It will also examine wider theoretical issues, including the ritual, ethnographic, experimental, social, historical and economic dimensions associated with the processes involved in transforming a range of different materials into artefacts. Videos and slides provide a richly illustrated background to lectures and discussions. Associated tutorials provide an in-depth consideration of this cross-disciplinary module. The topic will be presented as eight two-hour slots, some of which will be practical sessions. In each case the archaeological background to the production of a material - glasses, metals, lithics or ceramics - will be described. The production of each of these materials will be viewed as one of a range of activities, so that it will be possible to assess the importance of the production activity and the products to the ancient society as a whole.
Animals: The Bones of Society
In archaeology the analysis of remains is often considered to be a niche specialism, providing little information beyond 'what people ate'. This "special topic" aims to demonstrate that by studying the multifarious interrelationships between humans and animals it is possible to obtain a much more nuanced appreciation of past societies. Human-animal relationships in their multifarious forms are fundamental to all societies - they shape diets, economies, landscapes and beliefs - but they also reflect cultural ideologies. The study of human-animal interactions can, therefore, provide detailed insights into the structure and worldviews of past societies. By integrating evidence from zooarchaeology, archaeology, cultural geography, social anthropology, history and iconography, this module sets out to provide new insights into mainstream archaeological questions. During the module you will investigate a wide range of issues including (but not limited to) hunting, pet-keeping, animal-based rituals, the creation and meaning of ancient landscapes, meat taboos and preferences, and expressions of identity (e.g. social status, ethnicity and gender). These theoretical skills will be put into practice as you work together to record, analyse, interpret and report upon a zooarchaeological assemblage.
This weekly seminar-based module will explore specific aspects of human evolution through discussion and critical evaluation of current literature. You will focus on the earlier African hominins, particularly Australopithecus and early Homo, examining themes such as diet, habitat preference and locomotion.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.