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Course content

This MA provides training in the documentation and interpretation of artefacts from archaeological sites and museum collections. Students benefit from a placement within a museum or an archaeological unit where experience will be gained in the practice of finds analysis.

About this degree

Students are introduced to the skills of finds specialists. They develop the ability to identify, describe, document, catalogue and analyse artefacts and artefact assemblages. Subjects covered include the description of ceramic, lithic and metal objects. In practical sessions, we cover drawing, photography and work with databases. Many sessions make use of the institute's extensive collections. The programme will also raise awareness of different approaches to artefact analysis and introduce recent discussions on the subject.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of two core module (30 credits), four optional modules (60 credits), an optional work placement and a research project (90 credits).

Core modules

All students are required to take the following: 

  • Working with Artefacts and Assemblages
  • Technology within Society

Optional modules

Students choose to follow further optional modules up to the value of 60 credits from an outstanding range of Master's options available at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. For this degree, some of the most popular choices include: 

  • Antiquities and the Law
  • Archaeological Ceramic Analysis
  • Archaeological Glass and Glazes
  • Archaeometallurgy
  • British and European Prehistory: Neolithic to Iron Age
  • Experimental Archaeology
  • Funerary Archaeology
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Intangible Dimensions of Museum Objects from Egypt
  • Interpreting Pottery
  • Issues in Conservation: Understanding Objects
  • Key Topics in the Archaeology of the Americas
  • Laboratory and Instrumental Skills in Archaeological Science
  • Making and Meaning in Ancient Greek Art
  • Making and Meaning in Ancient Roman Art
  • Nature, Culture and the Languages of Art: theories and methodologies of art interpretation
  • Prehistoric Stone Artefact Analysis
  • Social and Material Contexts in Art: comparative approaches to art explanation

Dissertation/report

The 15,000–word dissertation can cover any artefact-based subject matter. It normally combines a professional standard finds report with an analysis and an academic overview.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through formal lectures, seminars and practical sessions. It can include a placement at a relevant museum or archaeological unit where students gain experience in the practical study and the recording of an artefact assemblage. Assessment of the core course is by weekly pieces of short work, a portfolio and the dissertation. The Technology within Society module is assessed by a project proposal and an essay.

Placement

Students have the option to undertake a 20-day voluntary placement at a relevant museum or archaeological unit. The placement itself is not formally assessed other than through its contribution to the student's dissertation work. 

Tier 4 students are permitted to undertake a work placement during their programme, however they must not exceed 20 hours per week (unless the placement is an intergral and assessed part of the programme). This applies whether that work placement takes place at UCL or at an external institution. If you choose to undertake a placement at an external institution, you will be required to report to the department on a weekly basis so that you can continue to comply with your visa. 

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Artefact Studies MA

Careers

Some recent graduates of the programme have gone on to PhD studies while others have pursued a very wide range of professional careers both within and beyond archaeology. The main career path is working as assistants, museum curators or working in the antiquities service recording and analysing finds.

Employability

The degree is tailored to give graduates a solid grounding in systematically recording and documenting artefacts as well as analysing artefact assemblage. They will also have a basic understanding of creating graphs and diagrams, and analysing and assembling finds-catalogues. Without concentrating on any specific epoch, we give students the tools for understanding and systematically analysing any artefact assemblages.

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

Whether you plan a career as a finds assistant, museum curator or plan a materials-based PhD, this programme provides you with the skills you need to successfully identify, describe and document artefacts and analyse assemblages. The emphasis  is very much on practical application, so there will be numerous handling sessions and praxis-related tasks.

The UCL Institute of Archaeology is the largest and most diverse department of archaeology in the UK, and provides a stimulating environment for postgraduate study. Its outstanding archaeological library is complemented by UCL's Main Library, University of London Senate House and other specialist libraries. UCL is located in central London, within walking distance of the British Museum and the British Library.

UCL's own museums and collections form a resource of international importance for academic research. Students will work on material from the institute's collection as part of their assessment. Past students on this programme have made effective use of the resources at the British Museum, the Museum of London and the Museum of London archives, the Petrie Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and other British and international museums. The Wolfson Labs provide a unique facility for scientific analyses of materials and have been used by numerous artefact students for their dissertations after the required training.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Institute of Archaeology

73% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.


Visit the Artefact Studies (MA) page on the University College London website for more details!

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