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Masters Degrees (Lithic)

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Material culture and artefact studies combines the archaeological recovery and specialist examination of an object with its presentation, management and understanding within a cultural context. Read more
Material culture and artefact studies combines the archaeological recovery and specialist examination of an object with its presentation, management and understanding within a cultural context.

Why this programme

◾This MLitt in Material Culture & Artefact Studies will prepare you to participate at both a practical and theoretical level within the field of specialist artefactual analysis.
◾You will be able to undertake a work placement to gain valuable work experience in a museum, archaeological unit or other cultural institution.
◾You will benefit from the involvement of staff from Glasgow Museums, National Museums Scotland and other institutions within Scotland, and will have the opportunity to work with collections from local museums, including the University’s own Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.

Programme structure

The taught component consists of core courses and optional courses, running over two semesters.

Assessment is normally focused on written performance, but oral presentation skills and other modes of assessment allow you to develop your writing skills in a number of formats. This is in addition to the practical emphasis on developing your ability to interpret and analyse artefacts.

For the MLitt you can opt to do either a dissertation or an extended work placement (assessed by work placement eportfolio and either a research report or a student exhibition design).

Core courses
◾Material culture in context
◾The process of artefact studies.

Optional courses include modules such as:
◾Lithic analysis
◾Independent study
◾Critical themes in the display and reception of objects
◾Early medieval artefacts
◾Viking and late Norse artefacts (AD 750-1350).
◾Optional courses drawn from Archaeology or from other programmes across the University can be taken by agreement with the programme convener.

Career prospects

The two strands to the degree enable you to prepare for further doctoral research whilst also providing opportunities for valuable vocational experience in a commercial environment.

The wealth of experience and knowledge provided by the interdisciplinary nature and focus of the degree and the networks and relationships developed during their time here, has stood past graduates in good stead upon graduation. They have found full-time positions with Historic Scotland, Headland Archaeology Ltd, Guard Archaeology Ltd. While others are working with various heritage organisations and some are continuing with their postgraduate studies.

Several of our international graduates have found employment working at the Smithsonian, Washington D.C and at the Pink Palace Museum, Memphis Tennessee. Others continue to work in the Cultural Resource Management sector. Several students have gone on to further doctoral research at Glasgow University and beyond, on prehistoric stone tools, Shetland lace knitting, Bronze Age ceramics and medieval settlement..

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The MA is for people with a personal passion for material culture, materials innovations, crafts, designs, heritage, and the cultural issues which they present. Read more
The MA is for people with a personal passion for material culture, materials innovations, crafts, designs, heritage, and the cultural issues which they present. Some are social scientists rethinking the engagement of anthropology, ethnography and material culture; others are designers or makers exploring cultural and social issues.

Degree information

Students will study anthropological and material culture theory, apply social science and ethnographic methodologies to the problems of design, explore the technical, aesthetic and symbolic properties of materials, and examine how these interact with production technologies and consumption choices. They will develop understanding of how working with materials, crafts, and design helps us to rethink, understand, and critique socio-cultural issues in ways beyond other disciplines, and in cutting-edge anthropological ways.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of one core module (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits), a departmental seminar series and a research dissertation (90 credits).

Core modules
-Materials, Anthropology and Design

Optional modules
-Anthropology of the Built Environment
-Anthropology of Art and Design
-Mass Consumption and Design
-Anthropology of Cultural Heritage and Museum Anthropology
-Social Construction of Landscape
-Ethnographic Film
-Archaeobotanical Analysis in Practice
-Archaeometallurgy 1: Mining and Extractive Technology
-Archaeometallurgy 2: Metallic Artefacts
-Archaeological Glass and Glazes
-Interpreting Pottery
-Lithic Analysis
-Archaelogical Ceramics and Plaster
-Issues in Conservation: Understanding Objects

All MA students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 15,000 words.

Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials. Several courses entail practical instruction, including visits to product design companies and trade fairs; archaeological field sites; Kew Botanical Archive and the British Museum. Assessment is through unseen examination, long essays, research methodology project and the dissertation.


The unique combination of scientific and social science training offers students career pathways in a range of areas including:
-Design research
-Design consultancy and policy
-Heritage and museums
-Materials consultancy: advising industry on different materials, old and new, and their technical and aesthetic properties
-Product marketing
-Fashion marketing and buying
-Academia (PhDs, lecturing)

In addition to analytic and ethnographic skills honed by the core academic training, graduates develop a solid grounding in materials and design literacy, communication and interpersonal skills, new ways of thinking about culture and society and presentational and studio groupwork skills.

Why study this degree at UCL?

UCL is a world leader in anthropological work, specialising in material culture, and also a pan-disciplinary leader in materials innovation and making. This MSc is the only specific design anthropology programme with a material culture emphasis, and the only one dedicated to seriously exploring materials and making in cultural terms.

The programme involves interdisciplinary engagements in: looking at materials expertise across London through visits to makespaces and materials libraries; a project for an external design client (in commerce, heritage, or the third sector); weekly high-profile academic speakers on material culture; and optional vocational seminars in spring. In some years we facilitate participation in conferences or workshops abroad.

UCL is located in central London, within walking distance to the British Museum and the British Library. UCL's own museums and collections form a resource of international importance for academic research.

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