The MSc Archaeological Science will provide you with a solid grounding in the theory and application of scientific principles and techniques within archaeology. The programme also develops critical, analytical and transferable skills that prepare you for professional, academic and research careers in the exciting and rapidly advancing area of archaeological science or in non-cognate fields.
The programme places the study of the human past at the centre of archaeological science enquiry. This is achieved through a combination of science and self-selected thematic or period-based modules allowing you to situate your scientific training within the archaeological context(s) of your choice. The programme provides a detailed understanding of the foundations of analytical techniques, delivers practical experience in their application and data processing, and the ability to design and communicate research that employs scientific analyses to address archaeological questions. Upon graduation you will have experience of collecting, analysing and reporting on data to publication standard and ideally equipped to launch your career as a practising archaeological scientist.
The MSc Archaeological Science at Cardiff University gives you access to:
• A flexible and responsive programme that combines training in scientific enquiry, expertise and vocational skills with thematic and period-focused archaeology.
• Materials, equipment, library resources and funding to undertake meaningful research in partnership with a wide range of key heritage organisations across an international stage.
• A programme with core strengths in key fields of archaeological science, tailored to launch your career in the discipline or to progress to doctoral research.
• A department where the science, theory and practice of archaeology and conservation converge to create a unique environment for exploring the human past.
• Staff with extensive professional experience in researching, promoting, publishing, and integrating archaeological science across academic and commercial archaeology and the wider heritage sector.
• An energetic team responsible for insights into iconic sites (e.g. Stonehenge, Çatalhöyük), tackling key issues in human history (e.g. hunting, farming, food, and feasts) through the development and application of innovative science (e.g. isotopes, residue analysis, DNA, proteomics)
• A unique training in science communication at every level - from preparing conference presentations and journal articles, to project reports, press releases and public engagement, our training ensures you can transmit the excitement of scientific enquiry to diverse audiences.
• Support for your future career ambitions. From further study to science advisors to specialists – our graduates work across the entire spectrum of archaeological science as well as moving into other successful careers.
There are two stages to this course: stage 1 and stage 2.
Stage 1 is made up of:
• 40 credits of Core Skills and Discipline-Specific Research Training modules for Archaeology and Conservation Master's students
• A minimum of 40 credits of Archaeological Science modules
• An additional 40 credits of Archaeological Science or Archaeology modules offered to MA and MSc students across the Archaeology and Conservation department
Stage 2 comprises:
• 60 credit Archaeological Science Dissertation (16-20,000 words, topic or theme chosen in consultation with academic staff)
Postgraduate Skills in Archaeology and Conservation
Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study
Archaeological Science Dissertation
Teaching is delivered via lectures, laboratory sessions, interactive workshops and tutorials, in addition to visits to relevant local resources such as the National Museum Wales and local heritage organisations.
Lectures take a range of forms but generally provide a broad structure for each subject, an introduction to key concepts and relevant up-to-date information. The Archaeological Science Master's provides students with bespoke training in scientific techniques during laboratory sessions. This includes developing practical skills in the identification, recording and analysis of archaeological materials during hands on laboratory sessions. These range from macroscopic e.g. bone identification, to microscopic e.g. material identification or status with light based or scanning electron microscopy, to sample selection, preparation and analysis e.g. isotopic or aDNA and include health and safety and laboratory management skills. Students will be able to develop specialist practical skills in at least one area of study. In workshops and seminars, you will have the opportunity to discuss themes or topics, to receive and consolidate feedback on your individual learning and to develop skills in oral presentation.
This programme is based within the School of History, Archaeology and Religion and taught by academic staff from across Cardiff University and by external speakers. All taught modules within the Programme are compulsory and you are expected to attend all lectures, laboratory sessions and other timetabled sessions. Students will receive supervision to help them complete the dissertation, but are also expected to engage in considerable independent study.
The 120 credits of taught Modules within Stage 1 of the Programme are assessed through in-course assessments, including:
Practical skills tests
You must successfully complete the taught component of the programme before progressing to Stage 2 where assessment is:
Dissertation (16-20,000 words)
After successfully completing this MSc, you should have a broad spectrum of knowledge and a variety of skills, making you highly attractive both to potential employers and research establishments. You will be able to pursue a wide range of professional careers, within commercial and academic archaeology and the wider heritage sector. Career paths will generally be specialist and will depend on the choice of modules. Graduates will be well placed to pursue careers as a specialist in isotope analysis, zooarchaeological analysis or human osteoarchaeology. They will also be in a position to apply for general laboratory based work and archaeological fieldwork. Working within science communication and management are other options. Potential employers include archaeological units, museums, universities, heritage institutions, Historic England and Cadw. Freelance or self-employment career routes are also common for animal and human bone analysts with postgraduate qualifications.
The archaeology department has strong links and collaborations across the heritage sector and beyond. British organisations that staff currently work with include Cadw, Historic England, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, National Museum Wales, the British Museum, the Welsh archaeological trusts and a range of other archaeology units (e.g. Wessex Archaeology, Oxford Archaeology, Cambridge Archaeology Unit, Archaeology Wales). In addition, staff are involved with archaeological research across the world. You will be encouraged to become involved in these collaborations via research projects and placements to maximise networking opportunities and increasing your employability.