Masters in Archaeology

The MSt (Master of Studies) in Archaeology is a nine-month, full time taught course undertaken in the School of Archaeology. The MSt in Archaeology is an intensive and stimulating degree for those who wish to develop and focus their knowledge of archaeology. Not only does this taught course provide an opportunity for students to build on their knowledge from undergraduate studies, it also offers an excellent foundation for those wishing to continue towards research at doctoral level.

The MPhil (Master of Philosophy) in Archaeology is a two-year, full-time taught course which adds a student-led research project onto the MSt year. It is ideal for those who are thinking of carrying on to doctoral research and wish to acquire higher levels of research skills and/or complete a medium-sized individual research project before embarking on their doctoral studies.

Flexibility is built into the degrees to allow students to create their own unique courses that reflect their chosen area of study. Most students choose to follow one of the following streams (although this is not a formal requirement):

  • Archaeology of Asia
  • Environmental Archaeology
  • European Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Maritime Archaeology
  • Palaeolithic Archaeology
  • Visual Cultures of the Ancient World
  • World Archaeology

MSt Archaeology Course Content

MSt Archaeology students take one of a range of core papers and an option paper and write a dissertation in a third subject, in a combination specific to their chosen stream or interests during the academic year. Subjects are selected from those listed below.


Formative assessments are carried out during the year in preparation for classes, and assessed summative work consists of:

  • An unseen 3 hour written examination on a core paper, and
  • Two essays (5000 words each) on a chosen option paper, and
  • A dissertation (up to 10,000 words).

Examination The core paper will be assessed by examination with an unseen 3 hour written paper that offers a choice of questions.

Essays The option will be examined by two pairs of 5,000 word pre-set essays.

Dissertation  The dissertation (up to 10,000 words) is the result of an individual research project and forms the assessment for one subject. It is on an approved topic relevant to the subject selected. A supervisor is appointed to guide the student.

Examples of past dissertations include:

Sedimentological Analysis of Ghoghara 1A, Middle Son Valley, India: Implications for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions before and after the 74ka Toba super-eruption

Perspectives on Bronze and Iron Age Trackways in Ireland: Change, Society and Culture.

The Moving Frontier: A valid concept for understanding the Omani presence in East Africa?

Towards an archaeology of the Republic of Seychelles: Creolisation and colonialism in the Western Indian Ocean

The culture of trade in Hampshire: a study of Hamwic and its hinterland in the light of new evidence.

Sifting Through Silchester: How ‘Roman’ are the Late Iron Age macroscopic plant remains?

Pesky Pastoralists – ceramics, subsistence and cultural unity in northern Kenya and Uganda AD 1000–AD 1500

Education and Excavation: Embedding Pedagogy in Archaeological Practice in South Africa.

Between Ritual and Function?: A Phenomenological Approach to Burnt Mounds.

The Path To the Forge: Sword-making In the Religious and Physical Landscape of Japan

MPhil Archaeology Course Content

MPhil Archaeology students share their first year course structure and examination pattern with the MSt students.

In their second year, they take a fourth subject, again chosen from the list for the MSt, which is examined by a pair of 5,000 word essays.

Over the course of the first year they also decide on the topic for an individual research project in consultation with their supervisor. The 25,000 word MPhil thesis is written over the course of their second year. The thesis is often based on fieldwork, which is carried out over the summer following the successful completion of the first year, or in the Christmas vacation of the second year.

Examples of past MPhil theses include:

Representation and Reality: Images of the Military in China and Rome, 250 BC–AD 250

Monuments, Material and Movement: Neolithic Sea Networks of North West Britain and Ireland

A Humanised landscape in the Iron Age: Hillforts in the Navia Valley (Spain)

Aspects of food distribution systems in Late Saxon burhs: the faunal evidence

Enduring Significance: A synthesis of antiquarian observation and archaeological excavation at Dorchester, Oxon. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries

A comparison between 'colonial' plantations in 17th century Ireland and North-east America

Pathways of Blue and White Porcelain: The economics of land and sea trade between China and the Middle East during the Yuan Dynasty (AD1271-1368)

Children of the Neolithic: An Ethno-Archaeology of Childhood in Early Neolithic Britain

Archaeology masters

MSt/MPhil Archaeology Streams

Stream Coordinator(s)
Archaeology of AsiaDr Anke Hein
Environmental ArchaeologyProf Mark Robinson
European ArchaeologyProf Chris Gosden
Landscape ArchaeologyProf Chris Gosden
Maritime ArchaeologyDr Damian Robinson
Palaeolithic ArchaeologyProf Nick Barton
Visual Cultures of the Ancient WorldProf Donna Kurtz
World ArchaeologyProf Peter Mitchell

The table below shows the subject options suggested for the streams. Follow the links above to see an overview for an individual stream.

Topics assessed by examination or essay
(List A)
Asia Environmental European Landscape Maritime Palaeolithic Visual culture World
Ancient Maritime SocietiesYesYesYesYes
Archaeological method and theoryYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Archaeology of EurasiaYesYesYesYes
Environmental ArchaeologyYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Europe in the Early Middle Ages: AD400-900YesYesYesYes
European Prehistory from the Mesolithic to the Bronze AgeYesYesYesYesYesYes
Landscape Archaeology and Spatial TechnologyYesYesYesYesYes
Transformation of the Celtic World 500 BC-AD 100YesYesYesYes
Visual Cultures of the Ancient WorldYesYesYesYesYes
Topics assessed by essay (List B)
Aegean Area, 2000-1100 BCYesYesYes
Aegean Bronze Age religionYesYes
Aegean Bronze Age trade: interaction and identitiesYesYes
Archaeology and Geographical Information SystemsYesYesYesYesYes
Archaeology and Material CultureYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Archaeology of ColonialismYesYesYesYesYes
Archaeology of Early Anglo-Saxon EnglandYesYesYes
Archaeology of Late Anglo-Saxon EnglandYesYesYes
Archaeology of Southern African hunter-gatherersYesYesYes
Body and Adornment: material culture of later medieval Britain, AD1000-1500YesYes
Chinese ArchaeologyYesYesYesYes
City, country and economy in the Late Roman Empire (4th-7th centuries)YesYes
Coinage and Society in Anglo-Saxon EnglandYesYes
Cultural Heritage Law: HistoryYes
Farming and States in Sub-Saharan AfricaYesYesYes
Formation of the Islamic WorldYesYesYesYesYesYes
Hunter-gatherers in world perspectiveYesYesYesYes
Maritime Archaeology up to AD 1000 YesYes
Methods and techniques in maritime archaeology YesYesYesYesYes
Object Analysis and Research MethodsYesYesYes
Palaeolithic and Mesolithic EuropeYesYesYesYesYesYes
Palaeolithic ArchaeologyYesYesYesYesYesYes
Practical ArchaeobotanyYesYesYesYesYesYes
Regional studies in Australian and Pacific prehistoryYesYesYesYesYesYes
Topics in Aegean PrehistoryYesYesYes
Topics from Archaeological Science MSt/MSc
Materials analysis and the study of technological changeYesYesYesYesYes
Molecular BioarchaeologyYesYesYesYes
Principles and practice of scientific datingYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Topics from Classical Archaeology MSt/MPhil
Any subject topic Yes Yes Yes

Not all the courses listed may be available every year.

Subject details

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