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Course content

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:

  • Prehistory
  • 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.

Course Structure

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)

Students 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.

Course Learning and Teaching

The programme 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 of students to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge that they have gained through their lectures and through independent study outside the programme’s 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 programme 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 over the course of the programme, 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 programme. In the first two terms students typically 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 have introduced them to and given them the chance to practice archaeological research methods in specific fields of study. 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 cap-stone of the taught programme 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 they will typically have up to ten one-to-one supervisory meetings, students 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 programme, all students also have access to an academic adviser who will provide them with academic support and guidance. Typically a student will meet with their adviser two to three times a year. In addition, all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet with students on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly research seminars which postgraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend.

Career Opportunities

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.


Visit the Archaeology - MA page on the Durham University website for more details!

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