Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

M.A. Honours in Archaeology and Ancient History

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: n/a
Final award: MA Honours
Programme title: Archaeology and Ancient History
UCAS code: VVC4
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Archaeology, and Classics and Ancient History
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: SHCA Quality Director
Date of production/revision: 1 April 2014

External summary

The MA in Archaeology and Ancient History offers the focused study of both the archaeology and the history of ancient societies. This programme challenges students to engage with the full spread of evidence, literary, epigraphic and archaeological, which informs our understanding of ancient societies. Focused on the Greek and Roman worlds, but encompassing material from prehistory through to the present day, it is designed to encourage students to contextualise ancient societies and to draw comparisons between them and those of other historical periods. This means dealing with a variety of textual evidence and material culture, ranging from historical texts by ancient authors through to inscriptions and notes on papyri, from monumental buildings and works of art to humble domestic assemblages. Archaeology and ancient history offer differing perspectives on ancient societies and students will learn to recognise the contribution of both and become equipped with the skills necessary to deal with each. At the same time, students will develop their understanding of the particular methodologies of each discipline and the overlap between these subjects and other areas of the arts, humanities and social, physical and biological sciences. Both the content and methods that the students will be confronted with in this programme are geared towards enhancing the students’ sense of social responsibility. The intellectual exposure to other, earlier cultures and societies will foster their sense of equality and diversity, as well as challenge the students to consider issues of sustainability, especially with regard to cultural, social, political and economic institutions.

Students will be expected to:

  • work independently.
  • organise and synthesise data derived from a range of sources.
  • critically assess evidence and evaluate a variety of competing or conflicting factors.
  • review differing theoretical perspectives.
  • develop and organise their arguments.
  • present a coherent, reasoned and well supported set of conclusions.
  • present arguments and results in written form, in clear and correct English.
  • present information and arguments orally with clarity and confidence.
  • manage their time effectively.
  • show their ability to use information technology.
  • demonstrate an ability to use, evaluate and criticise literary and documentary source materials, and recognise the importance of quantitative, spatial and visual evidence where relevant to their work.
  • appreciate the material basis of archaeology, the contested nature of objects, the social relationships that are spun around them and the people who use and interpret them.
  • employ appropriate participative team skills and team leadership skills.
  • understand and use relevant specialist/technical Classical and archaeological terminology.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims to:

  • develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the history and material culture of the ancient world.

  • provide a multidisciplinary understanding of archaeology and ancient history across a range of geographical regions and chronological periods.

  • explore the theoretical and methodological basis of archaeology and ancient history and their relationships to other disciplines; and to consider the contributions which they can make to the understanding of the past and contemporary worlds.

  • develop the intellectual and professional tools required to work effectively with material drawn from all forms of archaeological historical investigations, including art history.

  • develop the student’s ability to evaluate and question a range of written and material evidence and to present evidence using the full range of written, numeric and graphic skills.

  • provide a solid methodological foundation for further research in archaeology and ancient history, or for further study and research in the Arts and Humanities.

  • give practical experience of the practice of archaeology in the field.

  • encourage the students’ intellectual and creative independence, through the acquisition of a wide range of transferable skills.

  • equip students for progression to a wider range of careers or further academic study.

  • introduce ethical principles relevant to the study of materials inherited from the past.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Graduates from the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History will possess and demonstrate:

  • an understanding of the relationship between the theory and practice of archaeology and ancient history.
  • an understanding of a range of viewpoints on problems of interpretation and evaluation of the past.
  • an understanding of the ethical, social and political issues which surround the practice of archaeology and the interpretation of archaeological data.
  • an understanding of the professional organisation and structure of applied archaeology in one or more countries.
  • experience of field archaeological techniques, and/or training in related areas of applied archaeology.
  • an understanding of archaeological laboratory-based techniques and applications.
  • an understanding of the processes of data management and quantitative and qualitative methods as applied to archaeology and ancient history.
  • an understanding of the role of the past and its study in the shaping of ethnic, gender, class, national and other identities.
  • an understanding of (esp.) economic, legal, social, cultural, ethical, and political responsibilities and issues surrounding the study of the past and its applications.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Graduates from the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History will possess and demonstrate:

  • an ability to draw valid conclusions about the ancient world derived from a range of historical and archaeological sources.
  • an ability to identify, define and analyse historical and archaeological problems.
  • an ability to develop a reasoned argument, support it with relevant evidence, and communicate it appropriately and persuasively in written or spoken form.
  • an ability to extract key elements and meanings from complex data sets.
  • an ability to devise research questions and to undertake independent research.
  • an ability to plan and undertake a research project, in the form of a dissertation, and to formulate and test hypotheses through the collation of existing data and/or the generation of new information.
  • an ability to exercise critical judgement in the evaluation of the opinions and arguments of other scholars.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Graduates from the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History will possess and demonstrate:

  • openness to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking.
  • an ability to identify and implement processes and strategies for learning.
  • independence as a learner, with readiness to take responsibility for one’s own learning, and commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement.
  • an ability to make reasoned decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought.
  • an ability to test, modify and strengthen one’s own views through collaboration and debate.
  • confidence in one’s ability to assess visual evidence and to draw conclusions from it.
  • an ability to analyse how national, cultural, social or political assumptions and viewpoints can influence the study of the ancient world.
  • an ability to reflect on the role of the ancient world in the making of the modern world.
  • intellectual curiosity.
  • an ability to sustain intellectual interest.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates from the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History will possess and demonstrate:

  • an ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means to convey understanding of archaeological and historical problems and issues and one’s interpretation of them.
  • an ability to marshal argument lucidly and coherently.
  • an ability to collaborate and to relate to others.
  • readiness to seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness.
  • an ability to articulate one’s skills as identified through self-reflection.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Graduates from the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History will possess and demonstrate:

  • an ability to employ appropriate participative team skills and team leadership skills (notably managing a small group and directing the work of others in the context of archaeological fieldwork).
  • an ability to manage their own time and to work to defined objectives within strict limits of time and/or resources.
  • the confidence to make decisions based on understanding and personal/intellectual autonomy.
  • an ability to transfer knowledge, learning, skills and abilities flexibly from one context to another.
  • an ability to work effectively with others, capitalising on diversities of thinking, experience and skills.
  • an ability to employ appropriate participative team skills and team leadership.
  • an effectiveness in working with, managing, and leading others in ways that value their diversity and equality and that encourage their contribution

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Graduates from the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History will possess and demonstrate:

  • an understanding of the relationship between the theory and practice of archaeology and ancient history.
  • an understanding of the qualitative differences between written and material sources for the study of the past.
  • an understanding of the bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in textual criticism and visual analysis.
  • an understanding of the professional organisation and structure of the practice of applied archaeology in one or more countries.
  • experience of a substantial range of training in field archaeological techniques, or training in related areas of applied archaeology.
  • an understanding of archaeological laboratory-based techniques and applications.
  • an understanding of the processes of data management and quantitative methods as applied to archaeology and ancient history.
  • an ability to deploy a range of presentation aids and electronic resources for effective communication.

Programme structure and features

Modes of study: the standard mode of study for the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History is full-time.

Programme-specific entry, typical programme structure and progression requirements:

  • The programme is open to students with or without prior knowledge of archaeology and ancient history.
  • At first-year level, all students are required to successfully complete Archaeology 1a and Archaeology 1b (40-credits) and two 20-credit Classics courses that provide an introduction to the study of the ancient world, from the following: ‘The Roman World 1a’; ‘The Roman World 1b’; ‘The Greek World 1a’; ‘The Greek World 1b’; students are moreover required to take a further 40 credits of their choice.
  • At second-year level, students are required to complete successfully (with an average mark combined of 50% or higher at first attempt) two  20-credit second year Archaeology courses (Archaeology 2A and Archaeology 2B), as well as (at 50% or above at first attempt) Ancient History 2a and 2b (40 credits) and Classical Archaeology 2b (20 credits); and 20 further credits of their choice.
  • At Honours level, students are required to take in each of the two Honours years 120 credits. In Year 3 all students take two 20-credit courses: Theoretical Archaeology, and Archaeology in Practice. The remaining 80 credits can be taken from either Archaeology or Classics but at least 40 credits have to be from Classics.
  • In Year 4, students take 120 credits from either Archaeology or Classics, of which 40 credits must be from Archaeology and 40 credits from Classics. In addition to this, 40 credits must be from the Dissertation, which can be done with either Archaeology or Classics.
  • Assessment in the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History typically involves a combination of coursework and examinations. Full information on the programme and course specific learning outcomes and assessment practices are laid out clearly in the Classics and Archaeology Sub-Honours Handbooks, the Classics and Archaeology Honours Handbooks, and in specific course booklets available for each course of this programme.
  • The range of possibilities in Years 1 and 2 enables sideways movement into and out of this particular programme as the student's preferences and aptitudes emerge, and it provides different contexts and insights which are valuable for more advanced study of Archaeology and Classics.

SQCF credit points: courses at 1st and 2nd year level are at SQCF credit level 8; courses at Honours level are at SQCF credit level 10.

Exit awards: the MA in Archaeology and Ancient History (Honours) is the typical exit award for the programme after a normal study period of four years. Students who fail to progress into Honours or who experience difficulties with the completion of their Honours programme might be able to move to a general BA in the CAHSS subject to a number of conditions as laid out from time to time by CAHSS.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and learning strategies employed at the University of Edinburgh consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims. The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

Specific activities will vary with course options taken, but may include:

In Year 1 (core courses)

Lectures

Tutorials

In Year 2 (core courses)

Lectures

Tutorials

Field visits

In Year 3

Lectures

Seminars

Film Showings

Workshops

Projects

In Year 4

Lectures

Seminars

Film Showings

Workshops

Research Project

Research dissertation supervision

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 121790
Year 220800
Year 322780
Year 411890

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods and often takes the form of formative work which provides the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for credit.

Various assessment methods are used dependent on course options taken, but may include:

In Year 1

Essays

Coursework Exercises

Written Examinations

In Year 2

Tutorial logbook

Slide tests

Analytical review

Essays

Written Examinations

In Year 3

Essays

Logbook/Seminar work

Seminar Presentation

Project

Group Exercise

Written Examinations

In Year 4

Dissertation

Essays

Logbook/Seminar work

Seminar Presentation

Group Exercise

Written Examinations

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 157043
Year 263037
Year 348349
Year 438062

Career opportunities

Graduates from Archaeology and Classics often progress to further study or careers in academia, teaching, professional archaeology, the heritage sector and museum work. The transferable skills you develop during your degree will also prepare you for other careers and previous graduates have also gone on to work in journalism, media, publishing, law, accountancy, finance, IT, publishing or the Civil Service.

Other items

Archaeology practical work requirement: all students registered for a single or joint honours degree in Archaeology normally undertake a minimum of three weeks fieldwork approved by the Head of Archaeology during the summer vacation of their first year of study.

Students on all the History, Classics and Archaeology degrees can do a non-compulsory year abroad in their third year, through ERASMUS or International Exchange.