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 human past from our origins several million years ago to recent times.
While historians are primarily concerned with oral, written and transcribed accounts of the past, archaeologists use material remains to study the lives, societies and cultures of past peoples.
What the programme covers
- covers current thinking on some of the best known and most spectacular archaeological sites
- considers the most pressing questions in archaeological research
- provides an introduction to the tools and skills archaeologists use to reconstruct the past
Our teaching is multidisciplinary, reflecting the broad range of disciplines that underpin archaeological method and theory.
You can study a broad range of time periods and different approaches to reconstructing the past. These include:
- human evolution
- later hunter-gatherers
- the first farmers
- 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.
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.
You will have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience of artefact identification and analysis in practical sessions using artefacts from our own Vere Gordon Childe collection.
At the end of Year 1, you will complete 3 weeks of archaeological fieldwork. In later years of study you will also have the option to complete:
- further fieldwork
- projects in heritage management and public engagement
- lab-based analysis of archaeological remains
You can choose to take a professionally accredited pathway in this programme. This pathway is accredited by the University Archaeology UK (UAUK) and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and overseas.
Accreditation recognises that the Edinburgh degree provides skills relevant to a career in the historic environment and provides you with the opportunity to join CIfA as a means of supporting your professional development.
In Year 1, you will study Archaeology 1A and Archaeology 1B.
These courses offer a broad introduction to our human past. They cover the period 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, including:
- methods of site discovery
- recording and analysing artefacts
- scientific analysis of animal and human remains
- recent and innovative approaches to reconstruct the life ways of past peoples
You will choose two courses complimentary to your studies and two from a wide range of options.
Over the long holiday at the end of Year 1, you will need to complete 3 weeks of fieldwork.
In Year 2, 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 the environment shapes human behaviour
- the lasting impact activities like farming had on the Scottish landscape
A field trip to visit archaeological sites and the Museum of Scotland are core components of this course.
You will also study Archaeology in Action. This develops your understanding of professional archaeological practice and explores exciting innovations in archaeological methods through real-world application and hands-on practical exercises.
Students are required to take 'The Human Skeleton in Archaeology and Forensic Science'. This course 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.
In Year 3, you will:
- Study Theoretical Archaeology. This explores the history of archaeology from its antiquarian beginnings in the 18th and 19th centuries and its development as an academic discipline.
- 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.
- Study Archaeology in Practice. This focuses on the contemporary practice of archaeology in the UK and internationally. It gives an insight into the practical skills required of professional archaeologists.
- 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. This work is optional but can be assessed as part of your programme.
In Year 4, 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 and Archaeology is located in the heart of the city, within the University's Central Area. Here you will have access to:
- a range of study spaces
- our Student Research Room
- research collections
- our undergraduate common room
You will also have access to the University's libraries and computing facilities, located in George Square.
You will be taught in a range of lecture theatres and seminar rooms in the School and across the University's Central Area. Some of your classes will also take place at the National Museum of Scotland.
We have five archaeological research and teaching laboratories. These include post-excavation processing and wet chemistry labs, and a large teaching laboratory for the study of skeletal remains.
Take a virtual tour
You can explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.
As well as using our own resources and those of the University Library, you can apply for access to the outstanding collections of the:
- National Library of Scotland
- National Museum of Scotland
There are plenty of opportunities to study abroad in Year 3 by applying for one of the University’s many international exchanges.
These cover many parts of the world, including:
- North and South America
- New Zealand
These are unique opportunities to immerse yourself in different university systems and cultures.
There will normally be opportunities to complete archaeological fieldwork or other practical assignments in locations outside the UK.
How will I learn?
You will be taught by experienced staff with international expertise, through a mix of:
- field trips
- lab-based practicals or workshops examining a wide range of archaeological materials
In the summer holiday at the end of Year 1 you will normally complete 3 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
- group work
With an archaeology qualification from the University of Edinburgh, you will:
- Gain practical, social, intellectual and theoretical skills.
- Learn to think logically by developing sound research and analytical skills.
- Be able to compile and critically evaluate evidence in order to formulate and present an argument coherently.
- Become familiar with a range of disciplines, enabling you to demonstrate intellectual flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt to new situations.
Through fieldwork, you will develop a range of practical archaeological skills. These will enable you to appreciate more fully our human environment and its role in the contemporary world.
Where our graduates work
Many archaeology graduates find employment as professional archaeologists working for:
- government agencies
- museums and heritage organisations
- applied archaeological companies/consultancies
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:
- the police
- the civil service
Standard entry requirement
The standard entry requirement is:
- SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: AAB.
- IB: 36 points with 665 at HL.
Minimum entry requirement
The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:
- SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: ABB.
- IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
- A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.
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.
Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.
SQA, GCSE and IB
For SQA, GCSE and IB 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 at C
- GCSE at C or 4
- Level 2 Certificate at C
- IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:
- IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
- TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
- Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
- PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.
(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)
We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
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 Discover Uni data available.
In Year 1 we expect you to take part 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 in Year 1, and to fieldwork and practical work in later years if it contributes to your programme. However, the overall cost to you will depend on the type of work chosen and the location.
In later years, you may decide to undertake additional practical archaeological work in the holidays following Years 2 and 3.
If you study abroad in Year 3, your costs will vary by country.
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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