Human skeletal remains are the most direct evidence of past lifeways and their scientific investigation gives unique insights into human history. Bioarchaeology (the study of archaeological human remains) is an exciting field that draws on a variety of techniques, ranging from visual examination of the whole skeleton to the biomolecular analysis of small bone samples. Demographic shifts, environmental changes, migrations, the spread of diseases and the impact of violence and conflict all leave traces on the skeleton.
This MSc provides the skills required to understand skeletal biographies and interpret them in their cultural context at the individual and the population level. Combining theoretical learning with hands-on practice, we will provide you with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills essential to your handling and analysis of specimens recovered from archaeological sites.
Throughout the programme, you’ll take part in lectures, seminars and practical work with archaeological skeletal assemblages and reference collections. Drawing on Edinburgh’s long history in the study of the human body, you will also have the opportunity to visit Surgeons’ Hall Museum and anatomy department, which provide unique collections of pathological and anatomical study specimens.
You will complete six compulsory courses and select one further option. You will be assessed through reports, lab exams, oral and poster presentations, and essays. You will also submit a dissertation on a research topic of your choosing. Past dissertations have ranged from experimental projects on violence in prehistory to dietary studies of Chalcolithic Turkey and considerations of disease and impairment in post-medieval England.
The compulsory courses on this programme are:
Option courses change from year to year and those available when you start your studies may be different from those shown in the list:
On successful completion of the programme, you will be able to:
Examples of career paths available to archaeology graduates (although some may require additional training) include: higher education, heritage management and agencies, commercial archaeology, environmental assessment, teaching, tourism industry, broadcasting and the police.
An archaeology degree does not, of course, restrict you to a career in archaeology. The programme also equips you for advanced study.
This MA will provide you with a thorough grounding in the analytical approaches to human and faunal bone identification, and to the wider social, cultural and economic issues raised through the interpretation of archaeological bone assemblages.
A Masters in Osteoarchaeology provides a solid foundation for undertaking a PhD, which can lead towards an academic career in the fields of Osteoarchaeology or Forensic Anthropology. Through a combination of practical and theoretical lessons, students will be able to draw a comprehensive understanding of how past civilisations operated. Completion of this masters degree programme can also lead to a career as a Osteologist (human, faunal, or both) for Archaeology Contracting Units and Consultancies, both in the UK and abroad.
You will receive training in bone identification, paleopathology and analysis (using large reference collections of both human and faunal material), and explore the intrinsic potential and problems associated with such material.
This course aims to prepare you for research within the field of osteology, and to enhance future career prospects in all areas of archaeology, such as specialist faunal and human osteologists within archaeological units.
In recent years Archaeology has been reinvigorated by the ability of researchers to use modern technology to provide in depth insight and evidence to provide much more information about early civilisations than was possible previously. For Archaeologists this creates a richness in their work which allows us to link up our ancestors at individual level and at group level understand much more about why people lived the way they did, why they travelled and why the ended up at specific geographic locations in time. This subject area has now been further developed by the ability to use forensic methods to uncover truths at an individual level of how a person lived and died, their lifestyle and what they are likely to have done within groups.
You learn the latest technological advances to study and scan human remains in detail from excavation and other archaeological sites. The university is well equipped to provide you with a wealth of materials which are housed in Marischal Museum and contain material from Neolithic to past Middle Ages, Medieval towns of Aberdeen, Perth and St Andrews and international finds. You can also get involved in staff and student projects and voluntary work internationally on partner projects in countries like Alaska
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*Please be advised that some programmes have different tuition fees from those listed above and that some programmes also have additional costs.
View all funding options on our https://www.abdn.ac.uk/funding/" target="_blank">funding database via the programme page and the https://www.abdn.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-taught/finance-funding-1599.php " target="_blank">latest postgraduate opportunities
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The MSc by Research in Archaeology is aimed at students who have a specific topic of interest into which they wish to conduct their own research.
We welcome applications from anyone keen to work in fields that overlap with or complement our academic staff interests. These include human osteoarchaeology, forensic anthropology and archaeology, isotopes and science-based methods of investigation, geographical information systems, early civilisations and urban societies in the Mediterranean and Europe, Egyptology, Roman archaeology, the Byzantine world and late antiquity, hunter-gatherers and the spread of farming in Europe, megalithic monuments, later European prehistory and the archaeology of Scotland. As part of your application, you must submit a viable research proposal which sets out your aims and plans, while demonstrating your knowledge of the chosen field: this will be scrutinised as part of our admissions process. Two supervisors will be appointed to work with you on the project. It is a good idea to consult with prospective supervisors in advance of an application.
The School of History, Classics & Archaeology, and our relationships with other subject areas and external organisations, such as the National Museums of Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland, allow us to arrange interdisciplinary study and supervision.
A long dissertation is the sole form of assessment, but you will also attend a prescribed training course and are encouraged to take other relevant courses.
Our building offers you exceptional, modern facilities, resources and study spaces, in a stunning location.
Our postgraduate students have access to:
All of our facilities are in addition to the multiple libraries and computer labs provided across the University’s estate. Many of our rooms overlook the Meadows.
Our location, right in the heart of Edinburgh, means you will be based close to the city’s cultural attractions and facilities, including a wealth of libraries, archives, museums and galleries, which provide uniquely rich support for the disciplines we teach.
Archaeology students benefit from our laboratories for artefact analysis, environmental archaeology, osteoarchaeology, bone chemistry and computing (with a wide range of software applications). There is an extensive reference collection of archaeological materials, such as pottery, metal, stone and glass artefacts, in the V Gordon Childe teaching collection. Students can also benefit from the facilities, archives, collections and expertise of a range of heritage agencies and commercial archaeology units based in the city of Edinburgh.
Archaeology graduates can follow a variety of career options. The programme equips you to go on to advanced study, and also provides a solid foundation for a career. You will gain practical as well as academic experience, teamworking and analytical skills, and will be able to work in a variety of contexts. Examples of career paths available to archaeology graduates (although some may require additional training) include: higher education, heritage management and agencies, commercial archaeology, teaching, tourism industry, broadcasting and the police. An archaeology degree does not restrict you to a career in archaeology.
The Research Master’s programme in Archaeology is the most diverse in the Netherlands. Benefit from our extensive experience and reputation in archaeological research.
Our research master's programme offers interesting regional and thematic specialisation possibilities. It stimulates extra-talented and motivated students by exposing them to cutting edge research and making them part of it.
The programme helps you to find your own place in the wide world of archaeological careers, and equips you with all the 21st century professional and transferable skills you need.
Our research facilities and labs, field schools and excavation projects, experimental archaeology projects and the national research schools (ARCHON, OIKOS) offer excellent opportunities for every prospective researcher.
Australopithecus africanus, one of our many ancestors
This programme provides an in-depth interdisciplinary introduction in the European Palaeolithic record and its wider setting, from the Early Pleistocene to the Late Pleistocene.
The programme aims to develop a detailed and coherent view of past communities.
This programme focuses on a region that has enormous culture-historical significance, and is a cradle of civilisation from Prehistory up to the Early Medieval period.
Leiden Archaeology researchers used high-tech imaging to reveal rare precolonial Mexican manuscript hidden from view for 500 years
The programme offers an interdisciplinary context, where archaeology, anthropology, sciences, history, linguistics, landscape and heritage studies come together.
Fragments of a sabre-toothed cat skull where recenty excavated
Discover our four research disciplines, together covering an extensive geographical area and time range.
The programme focuses on the role of the past in the present. Explore the various aspects of recent developments in international politics, cultural tourism, the use of social media, and the revitalisation of local traditions and regional identities.
This programme offers an introduction to advanced studies of Europe and the Mediterranean in Late Roman and Post-Roman times (c. 300-900 AD).
Students who choose the Bioarchaeology track receive a Master of Science degree in Archaeology. For the other research tracks you receive a Master of Arts degree in Archaeology.
This programme is a pathways-based MSc degree, with a strong emphasis on the development of skills and specialism in Bioarcheology, including opportunities to gain experience with both human and zooarchaeological remains.
Students will acquire expertise in the anatomy of humans and animals, bone identification, sexing, ageing, health and disease, paleopathology, growth, diet, death and burial, and ethics. They will learn how to consider issues such as status, ethnicity, social identity, disability, migration and domestication thorough skeletal material and mortuary contexts.
The programme has a strong practical component. Students have full and unlimited access to the large human skeletal collection held in purpose-built facilities in the Department of Archaeology, including Bronze Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and medieval skeletons, as well as one of the largest faunal comparative collections in the UK, including fish and birds. Practical work further includes opportunities to work with isotopes for analysis of diet and migration in our isotope preparation lab, with analysis undertaken at National Oceanography Center, part of University of Southampton. State-of-the-art imaging is available at University of Southampton MuVIS Imaging Centre where students can access a full scanning, imaging and micro-CT suite through Archaeology’s collaboration with Bioengineering. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and 3-D printing facilities are also available. In addition, students engage with the latest developments in molecular techniques that can be applied to osteological material.
Bioarchaeology at University of Southampton has close links and collaboration with Anatomy through the Centre for Learning Anatomical Sciences and with Historic England. It is a global leader in research with projects across the globe including Spain, Romania, Croatia, Sudan, Egypt, USA, Canada, Denmark, UK and students frequently participate in these. Staff are actively involved in the following journals and organisations: Bioarchaeology International, Paleopathology Association, British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO), and American Journal of Physical Anthropology (AJPA)
You will engage with hands-on, real-world archaeological materials and situations, including opportunities to collaborate with a range of stakeholders and partners in the archaeological sector through a professional placement. By these means you will acquire skills for vocational employment or subsequent PhD research. Your programme will be embedded within Southampton Archaeology’s distinctive research culture, with world-class expertise, diverse practice, and contacts with the commercial environment and the heritage sector.
The specialism in Bioarchaeology includes elements that familiarise you with human skeletal biology; key research questions in, and approaches to, bioarchaeology; palaeopathology and disease; the archaeology and anthropology of death; and zooarchaeology. This pathway provides a springboard towards further research or a career in the commercial sector.
Important aspects of the programme are available across all specialisms. These include the compulsory dissertation module, which should focus on an area of your specialism, if you have chosen one. Furthermore, modules from each pathway are open to you as options, regardless of your chosen specialism. By these means you will be able to build a personalised and flexible programme tailored to your needs.
This programme includes opportunities for credit-bearing placements within organisations involved in commercial archaeology, heritage management, fieldwork projects and/or museums. The placements are typically organised by the University, and may be available to students following all specialisms, or crossing between them.