Masters Degrees 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.

MSt Archaeology Course Content

MSt Archaeology students take one of a range of core papers, an option paper and write a dissertation in a third subject. 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 (up to 5000 words each) on a chosen option paper, and
  • A dissertation (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 pre-set essays (each up to 5,000 words).

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 essays (each up to 5,000 words).

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

Subject details

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