MSc in Archaeological Science
Scientific analysis of archaeological materials can help uncover networks of trade and exchange, reconstruct technological processes, and identify cultural choices and behaviours that are otherwise inaccessible to the archaeologist. This course will provide you with an understanding of the potential uses and limitations of these methods, with a strong focus on how they help address questions about the human past. The aim of the taught part of the course is to produce ‘informed customers’ for a range of scientific archaeological materials analysis, whilst the dissertation allows you to focus on a specific question, and gain some practical experience in relevant methods.
We offer unique Archaeological Science Masters courses that are intended for archaeologists or scientists. The courses are holistic, providing a detailed grounding in the theory and practical experience across all the major applications of science in archaeology. The Master of Science (1 year) course in Archaeological Science is intended for those who wish to expand their knowledge and 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 key training for doctoral research.
Applicants may have either an archaeological or science degree, and it is advantageous to have some knowledge of both subjects. Apply Now
Course Director: Dr Amy Styring
Archaeological Science Modules
This course explores the use of scientific analysis of archaeological artefacts to elucidate questions of archaeological interest. We will cover a broad introduction to the study of materials, and specifically materials in archaeological science. We will discuss the fundamentals of material structure for each of the major classes of materials exploited by people across the past (metals, stone, ceramics, glass, organics), the how, where and why of the sourcing of raw materials, as well as the complexity and variation of production processes. Through this, we will also cover the major techniques used in the analysis of archaeological materials, and their strengths and weaknesses, and their usefulness for different kinds of materials and question. At the heart of this course will be the why of analysis, and what it can bring to archaeology.
This course is taught through lectures, seminars and tutorials, as well as practical laboratory teaching and experimental archaeology.
Scientific methods are playing an increasingly important role in archaeological research, and this is particularly true of organic materials. Developments in the analysis of stable isotopes, lipid residues, trace elements and ancient DNA are providing new lines of evidence for a host of central questions, including past subsistence and environmental change, migration and genetic origins. This course provides a detailed, critical overview of these topics, both in terms of the techniques themselves, and their archaeological applications. More traditional bioarchaeological analysis of human, faunal, and plant remains also feature.
The taught element of the course involves lectures and seminars that are complemented by interactive sessions involving the investigation of plant, animal and human remains as well as the generation and analysis of isotopic data. It makes use of the ongoing research of both members of staff and researchers to present the latest approaches.
Coordinator: Dr Amy Styring
We need to be able to put past events onto a timescale if we are to understand them properly. Scientific dating allows us to explore the relationship between different sites and regions. Furthermore, chronologies built up from dating and other evidence enable us to understand processes at work in the archaeological record. This course looks at the scientific dating methods most commonly applied, including the practical aspects of radiocarbon, luminescence, tephrochronology and dendrochronology. It also provides an introduction to the use of statistical methods for combination of information from direct dating and other archaeological information. There is a strong emphasis on the critical evaluation of dating evidence.
Coordinator: Dr Rachel Wood