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Archaeology of Medieval Europe (MA)

Course Description

This course is designed for those wishing to develop their knowledge of the Middle Ages (AD 400-1500) through the advanced study of medieval archaeology.

Reading has one of the largest concentrations of Medieval archaeologists in the world and we combine technical and thematic modules that cover: Dark Age societies, Viking interactions, food and culture, and the Crusades, as well as bioarchaeology, illustration and language. There is a unique opportunity to attend a European placement or work experience at Westminster Abbey.

We provide emphasis on social archaeology and interdisciplinary approaches to Medieval Britain, set in the context of northern and central Europe.

The MA at the University of Reading is designed for those wishing to develop their knowledge of the Middle Ages (AD 400–1500) through the advanced study of medieval archaeology. Reading has one of the largest concentrations of medieval archaeologists in the world and we combine technical and thematic modules that cover: Dark Age societies, Viking interactions, food and culture, and the Crusades, as well as bioarchaeology, illustration and language.

Why Reading?

By choosing this course you will become part of a department with one of the largest concentrations of medieval archaeologists in the world. The programme offers the broadest diversity of postgraduate teaching in the UK, encompassing the full extent of the Middle Ages (400–1600 AD) in northern, central and eastern Europe. You will be joining a department ranked top in the UK for world-class research outputs (REF 2014). You will be welcomed in to a department where research, teaching and professional training are provided by researchers with an international expertise on a programme which will increase your employability.

Programme structure

Set within the MA Archaeology programme, you will take a core medieval module and specialist options, which combined with our skills-based modules prepare you for your Dissertation and beyond.

The programme provides training in both general and specialist medieval archaeology, and in technical, vocational and research skills. A variety of teaching methods are used – ranging from lectures, laboratory practicals, small group tutorials and seminars. Independent research, critical analytical thought, work experience and professional development are embedded throughout the programme. Study three core modules designed to develop essential skills in academic writing (essays, dissertations, reports, applications and project designs), ITC and quantitative applications in archaeology, and oral presentation.

Dissertation 80
Research Skills and Career Learning 10

Skills-Based Options (10 credits each)
Theoretical Approaches in Archaeology
Archaeological Graphics
Introduction to Human Bioarchaeology
Introduction to Zooarchaeology
Introduction to Applications of Micromorphological Analysis
Research and Enterprise Placement (20) or Micro-Placement (10)
Or ONE Language option with the IWLP (20)

Thematic Options
Old World Archaeology (20 credits each)
The Edge of the Pleistocene World
Interpreting Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain
Climate Change and Human Societies

Roman Archaeology (20 credits each)
From Village to Metropolis: Understanding the urban phenomenon of Ancient Rome
Material Cultures and Identities in the Roman Empire
Celtic, Roman and Provincial Coinage

Medieval Archaeology (20 credits each)
Dark Age Societies AD400-1000
Viking Interactions in the West
Encountering the Twelfth Century
Artefacts of Medieval Daily Life
Colonisation and Cultural Transformation: the archaeology of crusading
Medieval European Landscapes

Middle Eastern Archaeology (20 credits each)
The Archaeology of Early Iran
Themes and Debates in the Archaeology of Early Turkey
Themes and Approaches in the Study of Mesopotamia

Bioarchaeology (20 credits each)
Human Bioarchaeology
Food and Culture
Archaeological Bone Chemistry
Coastal and Maritime Geoarchaeology
Applications of Micromorphological Analysis
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

Medieval Fieldwork and Placement opportunities

The Department of Archaeology at Reading has well-established Erasmus exchange agreements with a number of European institutions, including the Department of Medieval Studies in the Central European University in Budapest where most of the teaching is in English.

You can spend the time in Hungary benefiting from the expertise of archaeologists, historians and art historians working on Central and Eastern Europe; it will also allow you to develop your dissertation topic. If you have a particular interest in the Scandinavian Middle Ages, whether Viking Age or later medieval, there is an exchange with the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Lund, Sweden. Participation in our research project in the medieval Baltic Sea region can be enhanced by a period of study at the Institute of Archaeology at the UMK in Toruń, Poland, renowned for its research on the expansion of the early medieval Polish state and the crusades of the Teutonic Knights.

Recent Dissertations

To give a flavour of the types of research you can do while studying with us, here is a sample of recent dissertations from our students:
• The Sword in the Stream: Continuity and change in aquatic sword deposits of the Middle Ages
• Saxon London and the Lower Thames Region: Setting recent excavations in a broader context
• How were Roman Objects used on Anglo-Saxon Settlements?
• Anglo-Saxon Amulets: A re-assessment of the symbolic nature and iconography of amulets in early Anglo-Saxon England
• Medieval water control systems in the Wey Valley and their potential for environmental reconstruction

Career Prospects

Our MA aims to train you to the highest standards for doctoral study and professional employment. Many of our graduates have become field archaeologists or museum and heritage managers. Others have chosen careers where a trained and analytical mind is more important than a specific degree subject, such as in the arts, media, management, administration, the civil service, local government, law, publishing, librarianship and teaching.

Many of our postgraduates go on to full-time graduate-level employment within archaeology and related consultancies or units, but also within museums and government agencies. Up to one third continue their academic career through doctoral research.

In recent years, Reading postgraduate students have been successful in obtaining appointments with heritage agencies (e.g. English Heritage, National Trust) and universities, including Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Carmarthen, Cork, Durham, Exeter, Glasgow, Leicester, London, Newcastle and Reading.


We offer advanced study in archaeology on courses taught by academics with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research.

Join our lively and welcoming Department situated on a beautiful, award-winning green campus. Take advantage of outstanding teaching collections and facilities housed in modern premises.

We are skills focused – through our world-leading fieldwork and research projects we train graduates to the highest standards as a preparation for doctoral study and professional employment. We provide a strong research grounding linking social and scientific archaeology.

Visit the Archaeology of Medieval Europe (MA) page on the University of Reading website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Aleisha Bailey

"The course précis emphasised a focus on inter-disciplinary research, which interested me as I was going to be new to studying archaeology. The opportunity to combine different approaches to studying the past, and to work with people from different disciplines, appealed to me as a way to further my academic career. The best element of the course was being able to visit medieval sites around Reading. As an international student, this was a fantastic way to immerse myself in the period and see parts of England I would not have known about otherwise. The osteology laboratory in the Allen Lab was a great facility when I undertook the module on human bioarchaeology. The collection held by the University of Reading archaeology department was impressive and gave me the opportunity to work with remains from different time periods – each student worked on remains from a large cemetery and from different eras.

After the course, I wanted to be able to draw on my strengthened research and analytical skills. Writing the dissertation gave me the opportunity to work on researching and writing a longer piece of work and develop my arguments more than I would have in an essay. I am now working as a researcher and writer for the Australian Parliament, where I draw on my writing skills and my ability to analyse large amounts of information in order to draw out the narrative – skills I was able to develop at the University of Reading."


SAGES International Scholarship - 5 Awards

The School (SAGES) are offering International Postgraduate Scholarships worth £5000 to the strongest international applicants and the first recipients will be selected in April 2016. Scholarships are made in the form of a fee reduction.

Value of Scholarship(s)



• Applicants must hold an offer of a place from the School
• Awards are made based on merit demonstrated by the application
• Awards are available to part-time students as a one-off award of £5000
• Awards are not available for PGCert or PGDip
• Recipients of the award are required to accept their place within two-weeks of the offer
• The Overseas Deposit must normally be paid by the deadline set by the University, or the award will be revoked
• Students in receipt of the Scholarship may be asked to contribute to the School while at Reading

Application Procedure

Please register your interest in being considered for a Scholarship on your application.

Entry Requirements

Normally a first or good second-class honours degree or equivalent in Archaeology or other relevant fields. Students with little or no background in archaeological theory are required to take a module in this subject.

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