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This programme is a pathways-based research degree, with a strong emphasis on the development of skills and specialism in Palaeoanthropology.

Palaeoanthropology (combining Palaeolithic archaeology, biological anthropology and genetics) is one of the fastest-changing disciplines. Beyond the headlines of “the earliest” and “the most advanced” lies a huge range of evidence to explore and master, focusing on how our early ancestors and their relatives lived their lives and responded to opportunities and setbacks. Here at Southampton we have particular strengths in social and technological responses of hominins (the species directly ancestral to our own) to changing environments and landscapes, and have been shaping the debates on these key aspects for several decades.

Introducing your degree

Palaeoanthropology is a pathway within the MSc degree, and it aims to give you a diverse and in-depth experience of the discipline’s key themes. There is a strong emphasis on the development of practical skills in the study of ancient material culture, in visiting some key Palaeolithic sites, and in reconstructing the environments and lifeways of our hominin ancestors. From seven million years ago, and Sahelanthropus tchadensis, to the molecular biology of Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, and through to collections of beautiful American Palaeo-Indian Clovis points, this pathway master’s will prepare you for future research in human origins, or give you an in-depth understanding of our amazing evolutionary journey, depending on what you want out of your MSc.

You will acquire an expertise in looking at hominin material culture which will include a mixture of traditional techniques, as well as some of the ways of analysing artefacts that Southampton is pioneering. Students will also learn the latest theoretical issues in human evolution and engage with some of the most up to date arguments surrounding our ancient ancestors from staff actively shaping those debates. Students with an interest in general Prehistory will find many of the modules and topics available on the Palaeoanthropology Pathway of interest and relevance.

You will be based in the John Wymer Laboratory, which is CAHO’s (Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins) nerve centre. Here you will have daily access to our extensive teaching collections of replica and real stone tools, our hominin skull collection, and a large library of original and rare offprints and books focused on our most ancient ancestors and their world as well as on modern-day primates. The Wymer is a lively research and teaching space where you will be in the company of other MSc students, as well as our Ph.D researchers. We also have an experimental knapping and ancient technology area, where you can use our equipment to test key questions. You will automatically be a member of CAHO, and can participate in all its various activities. You will also have the opportunity of taking modules in related subjects such as skeletal anatomy or evolutionary and molecular biology to broaden your knowledge base.

Through CAHO you will be linked to a huge network of Human Origins teachers and researchers who are at the forefront of their disciplines. We aim to provide an enjoyable but challenging experience and convince you that the interdisciplinary study of hominin ‘deep history’, understanding who and what we are, and how behaviours developed, is one of our greatest intellectual journeys.


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 Palaeoanthropology includes elements that familiarise you with human evolution; primatology; early tool manufacture and use; cognitive and anthropological approaches to the human past; and key debates in British and European prehistory from our earliest ancestors onwards. 

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.

View the programme specification document for this course

Visit the Archaeology (Palaeoanthropology) - MSc page on the University of Southampton website for more details!




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