Archaeological Science

Introduction

The Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art in the School of Archaeology offers a Master of Science course (1 year) and Master of Studies course (9 months) in Archaeological Science. These courses are designed to give a broad but detailed grounding in the theory as well as practical experience in the major applications of science in archaeology. They are intended for archaeologists or scientists who wish to undertake research in archaeological science, or archaeologists who intend to pursue a career in the management of archaeological projects or become policy makers in this area and would like to have a sound understanding of the potential of science to elucidate archaeological problems. The MSc degree also provides the training for doctoral research.

Applicants may have either an archaeological or science degree, and it is advantageous to have some knowledge of both subjects.

The Edward Hall Memorial Fund provides bursaries (typically around £4000) for MSc students. All applicants are automatically considered and these are awarded on academic merit. 

Course Director: Dr Victoria Smith

All students are assigned academic advisors (supervisors) at the start of the course to provide general advice on the course. Your advisor/supervisor is not necessarily your research project supervisor, they will be assigned once you have selected a research project in Hilary term (January-February).

Archaeological Science masters
Archaeological Science

Course

The MSc/MSt Archaeological Science course is based on the research strengths of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art. There are three taught modules.

Topics assessed by examination (List A) Coordinator(s)
Materials analysis and the study of technological changeDr Nathaniel Erb-Satullo
Molecular BioarchaeologyDr Rick Schulting
Principles and practice of scientific datingProf Christopher Ramsey
Subject topics (List B)
Topics from Archaeology MSt/MPhil
Topics from Classical Archaeology MSt/MPhil

Most students take all three Archaeological Science modules (List A), but it is possible to substitute one of these with an module from another Masters degree in the School of Archaeology (List B). The Archaeological Science options run for the first two terms, Michaelmas and Hilary. The teaching in these options is through a combination of lectures, classes and laboratory sessions requiring regular written work, and is supplemented by a range of graduate seminars. The course benefits from the small size of the cohort (usually about eight, including both MSt and MSc), allowing many opportunities for student contribution. Class presentations are also required, providing valuable experience and the opportunity for feedback from your peers. Each option has a co-ordinator who will be responsible for arranging the teaching within that option.

Formative assessments:

  • Written examinations (early in Trinity Term) for Archaeological Science options.
  • Essay/s (due in Trinity Term).
  • Dissertation for MSc students (due in September) or Laboratory report for MSt students (due at the end of Hilary Term).

MSc students start a research project in Trinity term and continue through the summer, and MSt students conduct laboratory work and submit a report at the end of Trinity term. Students choose their individual research project in Hilary term (January-February) and will then be assigned a research project supervisor. 

Some examples of past dissertation titles:

  • Developing the use of supercritical fluids for the characterising Andean colourants and pretreatment of dyed textiles for radiocarbon dating.
  • An aDNA Analysis of Early "Domestic" Cats in Britain
  • A Combined Approach of ZooMS Faunal Identification and Stable Isotope Analysis to the Diet and Chronology of Palaeolithic Hominins at Vindija cave, Croatia.
  • A Framework for the Study of “Mercury Jars” and Other Stoneware from the Temasek Period of Singapore, alongside 12th-Century Stoneware from Kota Cina, Sumatra
  • The influence of seasonality on radiocarbon dates: investigating an offset with the calibration curve during the medieval period in England.
  • An investigation into climatic and Paleoenvironmental change across the Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene transition in Lesotho, Southern Africa, through the use of Stable Carbon and Oxygen isotopes.
  • Divine Provenance: An investigation into the procurement of obsidian during the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age at the site of Mtsvane Gora, eastern Georgia.
  • Exploring the potential use of the CERN Medipix 3 chip as a particle camera for dose rate measurements in luminescence dating 
  • Sedimentological and geochemical soil analysis of Lazaret Cave to determine post-depositional effects on organic molecule preservation
  • Stable isotope analyses of oxygen-18 in bone collagen as a means of determining mobility during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age at Baikal
  • Molecular clocks and domestication, using rabbits as a model organism.
  • Must the pot be destroyed? A comparison of approaches to organic residue extraction from ceramic fabrics

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