F4K007 Archaeology MA Postgraduate Taught 2019
The MA in Archaeology can be studied on a full-time and part-time basis. Through sets of specialist modules, skills-oriented classes and workshops, and dissertation research it provides the opportunity to advance your skills and knowledge in archaeology with a view to progressing to doctoral level research, or to pick up vital transferable skills ready for working in commercial archaeology or in the wider employment market.
A unique feature of our MA is the provision of specialist strands within which you will study, allowing you to gain breadth and depth in your understanding of particular periods, areas and topics. The current strands are:
- Egypt / Ancient India / Near East (EAINE)
- The Classical World
- Medieval and Post Medieval Archaeology
By the end of this course, you will have had a chance to engage in advanced collection, management and analysis of archaeological data and materials; to develop a sound understanding of current archaeological approaches, concepts and practice; and to acquire specialist skills and knowledge related to their strand from our team of leading experts in the field.
The MA in Archaeology is a 180 credit programme comprising
- Two 15 credit modules in research and practical skills training in the first two terms (one per term)
- Two 30 credit specialist research topic modules in the first two terms (one per term)
- One 90 credit research dissertation of 20,000 words (developed in term 3 and summer)
You can take a 20 credit language module from the Centre for Foreign Language Study in lieu of the practical skills module.
There is also the option of substituting a specialist research topic module with another MA module on offer in the department, and in some instances one offered by another department in the University. See below of other modules offered in the department.
Part-time students are expected to complete the course in 2 years. Typically part-time students complete the two 15 credit and two 30 credit modules in the first year and the dissertation in the second year.
Research and Study Skills in Social Archaeology (RSSSA) – 15 credits
This module runs in term 1 and aims to provide you with information and skills relevant to pursuing archaeological research for your MA dissertation and beyond. It combines strand-based tutorials on pertinent topics and themes with a series of lectures and workshops introducing fundamental research tools and skills in archaeology. Assignments bring these together in projects that apply primary research skills to topics in the student’s specialist area. Recent assignment types include literature reviews and academic posters.
Practical Research and Study Skills (PRSS) – 15 credits
This module runs in term 2, where you will select two topics from a range of options in hands-on ‘Master Classes’ led by professionals and academic experts, typically taught through short blocks of workshops. Recent options have included:
- Access analysis
- Ceramics analysis
- Ceramic materials analysis
- Glass finds analysis
- Museum artefact cataloguing
These classes provide the opportunity to develop professional capacity skills, assessed through ‘authentic’ assignments, such as reports one would be expected to produce as a professional in the fields of archaeology and museums.
As noted above, it is possible to substitute PRSS with a 20 credit language module from the Centre for Foreign Language Study.
Research Topics – 30 credits
Research Topics are detailed courses focussing on particular periods, areas or themes, and are taught by the Department’s leading experts on their specialist topics. Teaching is typically delivered through a series of lectures and special MA seminars/tutorials, usually over one term with sessions each week.
You will choose two modules relevant to your strand, although in consultation with your academic advisor you can opt for a non-strand-specific choice that allows you to branch out and try new things.
It is possible, as noted above, to substitute one of the Research Topic modules for another MA module run by the department, or one run by multiple departments (see further below).
Recent Research Topic options have included:
- Palaeolithic Britain (Prof Mark White)
- Themes in European Upper Palaeolithic Art and Archaeology (Prof Paul Pettitt)
- Hunters and Gatherers, Past and Present (Prof Peter Rowley-Conwy)
- Iron Age in Britain in its European Context (Dr Tom Moore)
- Environmental Archaeology of the North Atlantic Islands (Dr Mike Church)
- Monuments and Landscapes in Atlantic Europe (Prof Chris Scarre)
- Archaeology of the Egyptian State: Afterlife (Dr Penny Wilson)
- Archaeology of the Egyptian State: Religious Life (Dr. Penny Wilson)
- The Ancient Near East: Early Complex Societies (Prof Graham Philip)
- The Ancient Near East: Middle to Late Bronze Age (Prof Graham Philip)
- Continuity and Change in South Asian Archaeology (Prof Robin Coningham and Dr Mark Manuel)
- Archaeology of the Gulf and Eastern Arabia
- Cultural Landscapes of Eurasia (Dr Dan Lawrence)
- Aspects of Art and Archaeology in Ancient Greece and Beyond (Dr Catherine Draycott)
- Roman Landscapes of the Mediterranean (Dr Rob Witcher)
- Pagans, Christians, Muslims: Changing Townscapes the Mediterranean (North Africa and the Near East) in the First Millennium AD (Dr Anna Leone)
- Iron Age and Roman Heritage: Barbarism, Civilisation and Frontiers (Prof Richard Hingley)
- Warlords and Holy Men: North East England c. AD 400-1100 (Dr David Petts)
- Death and Burial in Early Medieval Britain AD 400-1100 (Dr Sarah Semple)
- The Archaeology of Towns in Britain c. 12–18th centuries (Dr Pam Graves)
- The Archaeology of Burial Practice in Britain, c. 12-18th centuries (Dr. Pam Graves)
- Preservation of Archaeological Sites In Situ (Dr Chris Caple)
Other MA modules run by the department in recent years have included:
- The Anglo-Saxon World (AD 400–1100) (in conjunction with History and English departments)
- Isotopic and Bimolecular Archaeology
The capstone of the degree is the dissertation, allowing you to develop your own line of inquiry and explore in depth a topic of interest to them. MA dissertations are 20,000 words in length, and provide experience of sustained, rigorous, independent research that is a necessary foundation for further post-graduate academic work and demonstrates intellectual mastery to professional employers. The topic may be drawn from previous experience or from a research topic or other MA module. You are supported and guided in choosing your topic, designing your projects, acquiring necessary skills and bringing them to completion through the training imparted in the RSSSA module and through one-to-one consultation with strand tutors and dissertation supervisors. You will be asked to identify a topic by term 2, but term 3 and the summer are fully dedicated to dissertation work.
To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.
Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.
Course Learning and Teaching
The course is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and workshops or practical classes. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate among archaeologists in a specific area or on a particular theme. Seminars then provide opportunities for smaller groups to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge gained through lectures and through independent study outside the formal contact hours. Practical classes and workshops allow you to gain direct experience of practical and interpretative skills in Archaeology. Finally, independent supervised study enables you to develop and undertake a research project to an advanced level. Throughout the course emphasis is placed on working independently outside the contact hours, in order to synthesise large datasets and to develop critical and analytical skills to an advanced level.
The balance of activities changes throughout the course, as you develop your knowledge and abilities as independent learners and researchers, in order to prepare them for work or advanced study once they have completed the course. In the first two terms you will attend around four hours of lectures and two one hour seminars per week. These are supplemented with two hours a week of workshops or practical classes. The practical work complements desk-based analytical skills, and are intended to develop skills applicable within and outside the field of Archaeology. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare effectively for your classes, focus your subject knowledge and develop a research agenda. During these first two terms you have the opportunity to do one or two formative essays or practical projects in preparation for summative (assessed) work. Typically you will submit around three to four pieces of summative work per term (essays of c. 3,000 words; practical projects such as photographic portfolios or posters).
Over term 2 and into term 3 the balance shifts as you develop your abilities as independent researchers. The lectures and workshops already attended will introduce you to archaeological research methods in specific fields of study and allow you to practice them. You will also engage with academic issues, archaeological datasets and their interpretation, which are at the forefront of archaeological research. The dissertation is regarded as the capstone of the taught course and as an indicator of advanced research potential, which could be developed further in a professional or academic field. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff, with whom you will typically have up to ten one-to-one supervisory meetings, you will undertake independent, detailed study of a particular theme, area or research problem, and produce a substantial piece of academic written work of around 20,000 words.
Throughout the course, you will also have access to an academic adviser who will provide you with academic support and guidance. Typically you will meet with your adviser two to three times a year. In addition, all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly research seminars which you are strongly encouraged to attend.
Subject requirements, level and grade
Typically applicants will have:
- A degree in archaeology or a related subject entailing experience in historical, material culture and/or visual culture (e.g. Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Art History and Theory, History, Classics, Oriental Studies), with 2.1 honours or higher for UK degrees, or international equivalent (please consult the department on international equivalents).
- For mature students, relevant employment experience or other qualifications (again, you are welcome to consult with the department on this).
Applicants are requested to indicate their interest in the strand they wish to follow in the personal statement of their application.
Prior knowledge of strand specific areas is not mandatory, but an ability to prove previous interest or experience in the strand area would be an advantage for your application.
Two satisfactory references are required
There is no specific deadline for applications, although applications for any given academic year must be received before the start of that academic year (i.e. applications for the 2019/20 academic year must be received before October 2019).
Tuition fee deposit
All self-financing overseas students are required to pay a £1000 tuition fee deposit if an offer from the Department of Archaeology is accepted. The tuition fee deposit is paid before the University issues a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) number, which is required in order to apply for a visa.
£500 deposit is also payable by Home/EU applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.
English Language requirements
Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.
How to apply
Fees and Funding
Full Time Fees
|EU Student||£8,000.00 per year|
|Home Student||£8,000.00 per year|
|Island Student||£8,000.00 per year|
|International non-EU Student||£18,300.00 per year|
Part Time Fees
|EU Student||£4,400.00 per year|
|Home Student||£4,400.00 per year|
|International non-EU Student||£10,100.00 per year|
Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.
Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.
Scholarships and funding
Department of Archaeology
Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.
For further information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.
Open days and visits
Pre-application open day
Overseas Visit Schedule
Postgraduate VisitsPGVI or
Department of Archaeology
Our internationally respected research expertise will provide you with some of the best resources available for archaeological research. We have one of only three commercial archaeology units in the UK based in a university department here at Durham. You will be able to work with experts in the field and will have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and specialised facilities. Among the best in the world, our MA programmes – including Museum and Artefact Studies, International Cultural Heritage Management, and Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects – offer strong professional and vocational training. The MSc in Bioarchaeology and research strands of the MA in Archaeology offer ideal preparation for research careers and specialisation. Our unique MSc in Palaeopathology attracts students globally with academic and professional goals.
|F4K707||Conservation of Archaeological & Museum Objects (Diss) (MA)|
|F4K507||Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects (PP) (MA)|