Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

MA Archaeology and Social Anthropology

UCAS code: VL46

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: History, Classics and Archaeology

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Archaeology and Social Anthropology

Archaeology and Social Anthropology is the study of past and present human behaviour. This programme examines the diversity of human social and material culture both ancient and modern. Your undergraduate dissertation at the end of this programme can be in either subject.

Social anthropology is the study of human conduct and thought. Societies around the world vary enormously socially, culturally and politically. The study of these variations, and the common humanity that underlies them, is at the heart of social anthropology.

Archaeology is the study of the entirety of our human past from the origins of humans several million years ago up to recent times within living memory. Archaeologists study surviving material or physical remains to reconstruct the lives, societies and cultures of past peoples.

In contrast, social anthropology is the study of human behaviour in living societies. Understanding a living society and its members involves participant observation, spending many months or even years living with, and sharing the experiences of, the people being studied.

We emphasise the importance of training in practical archaeological skills. You can gain hands-on experience of artefact identification and analysis in practical sessions using artefacts from our own Vere Gordon Childe collection.

Our students will also normally complete three weeks of archaeological fieldwork at the end of Year 1 and have the option to undertake further fieldwork, as well as projects in heritage management and public engagement, and the lab-based analysis of archaeological remains, in later years of study. If you choose to write your dissertation in Social Anthropology, you will also have the opportunity to conduct your own research for this in the summer break between Year 3 and Year 4.

Online information session

Interested in undergraduate study in Archaeology? Join us for our live online information session on Tuesday 25 April.

History, Classics & Archaeology: online information sessions

Year 1

You will study Archaeology 1A and Archaeology 1B. These courses offer a broad introduction to our human past, identifying crucial events in the development from the evolution of the first humans several million years ago, to the emergence of farming and the development of civilisations in Europe, Egypt and the near east. These courses also cover the key techniques that archaeologists use. These range from methods of site discovery, excavation and recording and analysing artefacts, to more recent and innovative approaches to reconstruct the lifeways of past peoples, including the scientific analysis of animal and human remains.

You will also study introductory courses in social anthropology.

Social Anthropology 1A: The Life Course introduces you to the practice of social anthropology and includes such themes as gender, personhood, work and making a living, the house, consumption and exchange, health, and the body.

Social Anthropology 1B: Anthropology Matters asks what anthropology has to say about some of the most important issues facing us today. The course examines how anthropology contributes to answering questions about how our contemporary societies work. The issues explored will vary from year-to-year, examples include: climate change, hunger, wellbeing, body modification, and human rights.

You will also choose from a wide range of option courses outside your primary subjects.

Over the long vacation at the end of Year 1, you will normally undertake three weeks of fieldwork.

Year 2

You will study the Archaeology of Scotland from the earliest evidence for human occupation at the end of the last ice age to the Roman incursion in the early 1st millennium AD. Key themes include the world heritage sites in the ‘heart’ of Scotland (such as Neolithic Orkney), human-environment interaction, the ways in which the environment shapes human behaviour as well as the lasting impact which activities such as farming had on the Scottish landscape. A field trip to visit archaeological sites and visits to the Museum of Scotland are core components of this course.

You will also study Archaeology in Action, which develops your understanding of professional archaeological practice and explores exciting innovations in archaeological methods through real-world applications and hands-on practical exercises.

In Ethnography: Theory and Practice, you will study the theory and practice of ethnographic fieldwork through practical group work involving participant observation, writing of field-notes and conducting interviews.

Social Anthropology 2: Key Concepts introduces you to the major ideas that define social anthropology today and the historical development of anthropological thought.

You will again choose from a wide range of option courses outside your primary subjects.

There may be opportunities, normally in the vacations after Years 2 and 3, to complete archaeology fieldwork or other practical assignments in the UK or abroad. Such work is optional, but can be assessed as part of your programme.

Year 3

You will study Theoretical Archaeology, which explores the history of archaeology from its antiquarian beginnings in the 18th-19th centuries and its development as an academic discipline. You will consider the theories that archaeologists have used to understand and interpret the remains that they have found and examine how these ideas have changed over the past 150 years.

You will also study Archaeology in Practice, which focuses on the contemporary practice of archaeology in the UK as well as internationally, providing an insight into the practical skills required of professional archaeologists.

You will choose at least two social anthropology courses from a range of courses on important anthropological themes, including Anthropological Theory, Kinship, Ritual & Religion and Consumption, Exchange & Technology.

You will select a further two courses from available option courses in archaeology and social anthropology. Honours level courses in archaeology focus on a time period or a geographic area (e.g. Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe, Bronze Age near east, Iron Age Scotland, Prehistoric Mediterranean isles) or on a particular theme or approach (e.g. archaeology of human remains, archaeology of architecture, archaeological illustration, conflict archaeology, ritual and monumentality, scientific methods in bio-archaeology).

If you choose, at this stage, to write your dissertation in social anthropology, you will also have the opportunity to conduct your own research in the summer break between Year 3 and Year 4. Your dissertation supervisor will help you to plan and develop your research project which can take place in the UK or overseas. You will also take the course Imagining Anthropological Research in preparation for your fieldwork.

Year 4

You will choose two archaeology courses and two social anthropology courses from a wide range of honours-level options.

You will also complete a dissertation, which can be written and supervised either in archaeology or in social anthropology, or on a topic bridging these disciplines.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

We publish the latest available information for this programme. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year.

Programme structure (2017/18)

Our facilities

The School of History, Classics & Archaeology, located within the University's Central Area, has excellent teaching and study facilities.

We have five archaeological laboratories, including wet processing and bone chemistry labs as well as a large teaching laboratory for the study of skeletal remains.

You can use the School's dedicated study spaces, which have computers and general reference collections. You will also have access to the University's libraries.

Study abroad

The University has exchange agreements with a number of European universities, currently including those in Italy and Greece, which it may be possible for you to apply to.

It may also be possible to study outside of Europe including in the US. There will be opportunities, normally in the long vacations after Years 2 and 3, to complete archaeology fieldwork or other practical assignments in the UK or abroad. Such work is optional, but can be assessed as part of your programme.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials, as well as field trips and lab-based practicals or workshops examining artefacts.

In the summer vacation at the end of Year 1 you will normally complete three weeks of fieldwork either inside or outside of the UK. Fieldwork or other practical work in later years is optional, but it can contribute towards your final degree and can also contribute to your dissertation research.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed primarily through coursework and exams. Some classes also include assessed oral presentations, practicals and/or group work.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

We publish the latest available information for this programme. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year.

Programme details (2017/18)

With an archaeology qualification from the University of Edinburgh, you will gain practical, social, intellectual and theoretical skills. You will become familiar with a range of disciplines, enabling you to demonstrate intellectual flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt to new situations. You’ll learn to think logically through developing sound research and analytical skills and you’ll be able to compile and critically evaluate evidence in order to formulate and present an argument coherently.

Through fieldwork, you’ll develop a range of practical archaeological skills that will enable you to appreciate more fully our human environment and its role in the contemporary world.

Many archaeology graduates find employment as professional archaeologists working for government agencies, universities, museums and heritage organisations or applied archaeological companies/consultancies in the UK or elsewhere.

Our graduates are also well-rounded people with a range of transferable skills that will give you the opportunity to pursue a broad range of careers, for example, in business, management, teaching, journalism, the police and the civil service.

Typical offer

The typical offer is likely to be:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points (grades 655 at HL).

Minimum entry requirements

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or ABBBB/AABB from S4-S6, with a minimum of BBB achieved in one year of S4-S6. National 5: English at Grade C and Mathematics or an approved science at Grade C.
  • A Levels: ABB. GCSEs: English at Grade C or 4 and Mathematics or an approved science at Grade C or 4.
  • IB: Award of Diploma with 34 points overall and grades 655 in HL subjects. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics or an approved science at 4.

Find out more about entry requirements

International students

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

You must provide evidence that your written and spoken English is at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

If English is not your first language, you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your spoken and written English:

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT 92 or above with 20 in each section
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): Total 61 with at least 51 in each "Communicative Skills" section
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components

About English language requirements


For SQA and GCSE students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 Grade C
  • SQA Standard Grade 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 Grade A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 Grade C
  • GCSE Grade C or 4
  • IB Standard Level Grade 5

Key Information Sets (KIS) are part of a government initiative to enhance the information that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

KIS are available for most undergraduate programmes and are intended to make it easier for you to find information about the programmes you are interested in studying. It is one of many sources of information available that will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

You can also use this website to find more information on our programmes and the learning environment you will experience at the University of Edinburgh.

Please note that some programmes do not have data available and will not display a KIS.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Archaeology and Social Anthropology

Additional Costs

In Year 1 you are expected to participate in an archaeological fieldwork project. Normally, the minimum requirement is three weeks of field experience. Archaeological projects often charge a participation fee. We are able to make a contribution towards your mandatory fieldwork but the overall cost to you will depend on the type of work chosen and the location.

In later years, you may opt to undertake additional practical archaeological work in the vacations following Year 2 and 3.

Dissertation research for a dissertation in Social Anthropology may incur additional costs when conducted overseas. Most students incur no additional costs as they either remain in the UK or do their research while studying abroad in Year 3.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding