Masters degrees in Archaeological Science


The School of Archaeology offers two masters degrees in Archaeological Science for those who wish to develop a broad but detailed grounding in the theory as well as practical experience in the major applications of science in archaeology. The Master of Studies (MSt) is a nine-month, full time taught course (equivalent to an Master of Arts (MA) in other institutions) whilst the Master of Science (MSc) is a twelve-month course.  Both degree courses are based on the research strengths of the School.

The MSc degree consists of two nine-week terms of taught material and a five month research project. The MSt shares the taught component of the MSc course, but instead of the research project, the candidates are required to submit a 5000 word report on a practical project of approximately 6 weeks duration.  Both degrees require candidates to submit a pre-set essay (of either 5,000 or 10,000 words) at the start of Trinity Term, on a topic to be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.

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.

Course Director: Dr Victoria Smith

Structure and assessment of MSt and MSc

Most students take all three Archaeological Science modules listed below, but it is possible, with the permission of the School of Archaeology's Graduate Studies Committee, to substitute one of the Archaeological Science modules for one of the Schedule B options from either the MSt in Archaeology or the MSt in Classical Archaeology.  In addition, all MSt and MSc candidates will be required to submit a pre-set essay of either 5k or 10k words at the beginning of Trinity Term as well as a 5,000 word project (MSt) or 20,000 word dissertation (MSc) towards the end of their course.

The two structural options are summarised below:

Option 1

M.St./M.Sc. Archaeological Science Option 1

Option 2

M.St./M.Sc. Archaeological Science Option 2

Useful documents/links

The above links will take you to the most current documents which will be updated throughout the course of the academic year. 

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Scientific analysis of archaeological materials can uncover networks of exchange, reconstruct technological processes, and identify cultural choices and behaviours that are otherwise inaccessible to the archaeologist. This course provides students with a strong understanding of the potential uses and limitations of these methods, with an emphasis on how they help address questions about the human past. Lectures in the first part of the course will focus on methodological approaches to analysing common archaeological materials, covering the fundamentals of material structure, raw materials, and production processes. The second part of the course is organized in discussion-based seminars that centre on key archaeological themes, such as craft production, innovation, and culture contact. These seminars cover both the theoretical approaches to these issues and the ways that materials science can contribute to these discussions. Weekly practicals include both hands-on experimental archaeology sessions and lab-based exercises aimed at introducing various methods of materials analysis. These sessions help students think about how ancient people transformed and manipulated materials, and how those behaviours are translated to the archaeological record.


Coordinator: Dr Nathaniel Erb-Satullo

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 course includes a strong practical component, with a series of laboratory-based practicals. It makes use of the ongoing research of both members of staff and research students to present the latest approaches.


Coordinator: Associate Professor Rick Schulting

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: Professor Christopher Ramsey

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