Postgraduate study
This MRes provides a wide range of highly sought-after skills in research, critical thinking, data analysis and communication.
MRes Archaeological Science
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Entry requirements
2:1 (or international equivalent)
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
UK/EU fees
£4,350 - Terms apply
International fees
£17,550 - Terms apply
University Park



MRes Archaeological Science is an exciting opportunity to develop advanced knowledge and understanding of specific areas of archaeological science by following a personalised, individual study pathway, in close collaboration with our staff. You will further your own intellectual development and enhance your independent research skills by completing a substantial archaeological research project.

It is ideal preparation for students wishing to undertake a PhD in archaeology, and follows the research model (one year research training plus three years research) suggested by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It also provides a wide range of highly sought-after skills in research, critical thinking, data analysis, and communication which will provide the foundation for a future career in archaeology and heritage, as well as many other sectors.

This course offers you the flexibility to tailor the content to reflect your personal interests and research topic. Our teaching draws on the extensive and world-leading research expertise of staff within the Department of Classics and Archaeology. We have internationally-renowned expertise in Bioarchaeology (palaeoanthropology, archaeobotany and zooarchaeology) and Archaeological Materials (particularly glass), with staff members who work across regions and chronological periods ranging from Old-World Prehistory from the UK to South Africa, the ancient Mediterranean and the Roman world, and Medieval and Post-Medieval Europe. You can follow a specialist pathway focusing on specific areas of environmental or materials science, gaining advanced training in practical and analytical techniques, and can combine this with an in-depth study of a specific period or region. You will undertake independent research on a topic of your choice, supervised by a member of staff, which will include a major component of primary scientific analysis of archaeological evidence.

For those in current employment, the MSc (by Research) can be studied over two years on a part-time basis. As teaching is largely undertaken through individual tutorials or small groups, there is a great deal of flexibility to organise your time around existing commitments.

Visit the Department of Classics and Archaeology website to explore the department's research and teaching profile.

Key facts

  • The department offers excellent facilities for teaching and research, including six newly refurbished research laboratories for bioarchaeology, archaeological materials, and imaging
  • This course is taught within a thriving department that attracts academic and research staff from around the world, and which has a friendly and vibrant atmosphere
  • We have a good track recording in helping our postgraduate students secure competitive funding for their studies

Full course details

All students take 180 credits in a year. The taught component is worth 60 credits. It consists of three 20 credit modules, Special Topic in Archaeology 1, Special Topic in Archaeology 2  and a Faculty of Arts professional development module that can be chosen from a number of topics such as research methods for the arts and humanities, or public engagement and communication. You are able to choose from a wide variety of topics for the Special Topic modules, which may include archaeozoology, archaeobotany, glass, human osteology and evolution, and period-specific topics in Prehistoric, Mediterranean, Roman or Medieval archaeology.

Individual study pathways will be created with guidance from the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor and members of academic staff, and these will be based on your interests and your chosen area of research specialism. Modules 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.

You will then complete an independent Research Project (120 credits), producing a 25,000-word thesis on your chosen subject. To prepare for this, you will take the compulsory module Research Skills in Archaeology which provides 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. The course culminates in our annual Postgraduate Archaeology Conference, which our MA and MSc students organise together, where you will present your research to a wider audience.

You can choose to specialise in any area in which the department has research and teaching expertise. The MSc (by Research) is a highly flexible degree, allowing great freedom of choice in topics and allowing you to study advanced scientific and theoretical perspectives across many time periods and regions. The subject areas below are a guide to our core areas of research and teaching, but please consult our Department of Classics and Archaeology website for a full picture.

Social Bioarchaeology – People, Plants and Animals

Our department is a recognised centre of excellence in the innovative study of social bioarchaeology and the interaction of humans, plants and animals in their wider landscape and environmental context. Staff members specialise in palaeoanthropology, zooarchaeology and archaeobotany, across regions and time-periods ranging from the Palaeolithic to Roman to Post-Medieval Europe. You are provided with a practical, methodological and theoretical grounding in bioarchaeology, allowing you to develop core practical and analytical skills to enable you to undertake independent study of environmental evidence for their dissertation, and to pursue a career as a specialist in the field.

Archaeological Materials

You have the opportunity to combine archaeology and science in the investigation of ancient materials and pyrotechnologies. You can study the archaeological, ethnographic and scientific aspects of materials – primarily glass – choosing to specialise in particular methods and techniques or taking a broader comparative approach. To undertake an independent research project in archaeological materials, you will be taught core practical and analytical skills to enable you to undertake primary scientific analysis using a wide range of techniques and approaches.

Underwater Archaeology

Nottingham is leading the way in developing sophisticated new techniques for underwater archaeology, using advanced digital survey methods on underwater sites. Our research in this field focuses on prehistoric submerged settlements, including the excavation of lake dwellings in Scotland as well as a major project investigating the ancient sunken city of Pavlopetri in Greece.

Prehistoric archaeology

Our members of staff research and teach in many different fields of Old World prehistory, ranging from human evolution in Africa and Europe, to the development of more complex societies in later prehistory. Members of staff have particular strengths in early hominin palaeoecology, the study of Neolithic to Iron Age societies in the Mediterranean, and Iron Age communities in Atlantic Europe, from Spain to Scotland.

Mediterranean Archaeology

You can study many different aspects of the archaeology of Mediterranean society. We have particular strengths in prehistoric Mediterranean archaeology, from prehistoric Italy (Neolithic to Iron Age), to Bronze Age Greece (Minoan and Mycenaean archaeology) and the Dark Ages of Greece. Specialists in this field work with landscape archaeology, burials, and archaeobotany. We also have specialists in the archaeology of the classical Mediterranean and the Roman Empire, and the period of Late Antiquity and the transition to the early medieval world. Students will be able to study a range of different types of archaeological evidence including burials, monuments, landscapes, cities, forts and material culture.

Roman Archaeology

You can study many different aspects of the archaeology of the Roman World, from the Mediterranean world and the City of Rome, to Britain and the North-Western provinces, to the Balkans and the eastern Empire. Our teaching and research ranges from the high point of the Roman Empire in the 1st and 2nd centuries, to the transformation of the late Roman Empire and the period of Late Antiquity. Students studying the City of Rome topic (30 credits) have the opportunity to apply to spend one semester at the British School in Rome.

Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology

Nottingham has one of the UK’s largest concentrations of specialists in medieval archaeology. We have members of staff researching and teaching in the periods of both early medieval (Anglo-Saxon and Viking) and later medieval and post-medieval (from the Norman Conquest to the Renaissance), and students can study topics across this range or choose to specialise in one period. We have expertise in the study of landscape and settlement archaeology, the archaeology of standing buildings, and medieval topics in zooarchaeology and archaeobotany.

Our teaching covers the archaeology of the British Isles and adjacent countries of North-Western Europe and Scandinavia, as well as the early medieval Mediterranean and the archaeology of the medieval Silk Road. Medieval archaeology at Nottingham benefits from the interdisciplinary connections provided by the Institute of Medieval Research, which brings together staff and students in the Departments of English, History, Archaeology and Art History with a series of seminars, lectures and conferences throughout the year.



There are 180 credits in this MRes. 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 postgraduate level. The themes discussed in each of these special topics are tailored to the interests of the participating students.

Practical Archaeobotany
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. 
Practical Zooarchaeology 
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. 

Human Evolution
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 above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.


Fees and funding

UK/EU and international students

Competitive scholarships available include:

  • MA Scholarships
  • PhD Scholarships
  • School Overseas Research Scholarship

This is by no means a complete list. For up-to-date information and application forms on these and other funding opportunities, please visit the funding section of the Postgraduate Prospectus.

You may also search the University’s funding database, designed to give you an indication of University scholarships for which you may be eligible to apply. The University Graduate School operates funding schemes of its own to help support current postgraduate research.

For a detailed list of external funding schemes, please visit the School of Humanities funding page.

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.


Careers and professional development

MRes Archaeological Science is ideal preparation for a research career in Archaeology, following the suggested model of one year research training plus 3-year PhD favoured by the AHRC.

Our students are trained to become independent specialists, and many have gone on to archaeology-related employment in research or the commercial sector. 

Archaeology graduates pursue a wide variety of careers, ranging from law and business, to teaching and publishing. During your degree, alongside your academic knowledge, you will develop many transferable skills that are sought after by employers. Please see career opportunities  for your information.

Average starting salary and career progression

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers.*

In 2016, 96% of postgraduates from the School of Humanities who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £22,370 with the highest being £30,000.**

The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.  
**Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from  careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.  


Related courses and downloads


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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