UCAS code: V400
Duration: 4 years
School: History, Classics and Archaeology
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Introducing MA Archaeology
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. While historians are primarily concerned with oral, written and transcribed accounts of the past, archaeologists study surviving material or physical remains to reconstruct the lives, societies and cultures of past peoples.
This programme covers current thinking on some of the best known and most spectacular archaeological sites, considers the most pressing questions in archaeological research, and provides an introduction to the tools and skills archaeologists require to reconstruct the past.
Our teaching is multidisciplinary, reflecting the broad range of disciplines (drawn from the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences) that underpin archaeological method and theory. A broad range of time periods and different approaches to reconstructing the past can be studied, including human evolution, later hunter-gatherers, the first farmers and the later prehistoric societies of the Iron Age.
Our geographical scope reaches from the north of Scotland over central and southern Europe, the western and eastern Mediterranean to Egypt and the near east. We also specialise in osteology, the study of the skeletal remains of humans and animals, as well as forensic anthropology. In Years 3 and 4 you can choose to specialise in a specific time period, geographic area or culture.
We emphasise the importance of training in practical archaeological skills. There is an opportunity to 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.
In 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 choose two courses complimentary to your studies and two from a wide range of options.
Over the long vacation at the end of Year 1, you will normally be required to undertake three weeks of fieldwork.
You will study the archaeology of Scotland from the earliest evidence of 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.
One further compulsory archaeology course, The Human Skeleton in Archaeology and Forensic Science, provides an introduction to the study of human remains. Key topics include skeletal anatomy and the techniques used to determine age, sex and cause of death, as well as identifying indicators of ill-health, disease and violence.
You will choose two courses complimentary to your studies and one from a wide range of options.
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 four additional courses from archaeology options.
There will be opportunities, normally in the summer 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.
You will select four archaeology option courses and write your honours dissertation.
Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.
To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.
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.
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.
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.
To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.
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.
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.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
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.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
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
SQA and GCSE
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
This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.
It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.
Please note that some programmes do not have Unistats data available.
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.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.
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