1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
The MA in Archaeology can be studied on a full-time and part-time basis. Through sets of specialist modules, skills-oriented classes and workshops, and dissertation research it provides the opportunity to advance your skills and knowledge in archaeology with a view to progressing either to doctoral-level research or to gaining specialist and transferable skills to develop a career in commercial archaeology or in the wider employment market.
The MA Archaeology is designed to take advantage of the exceptionally wide research interests of the staff in Durham Archaeology, which range from the Palaeolithic of western Europe, through Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe, to the Classical archaeology of the Greek and Roman worlds, through Egyptology, the archaeology of the ancient and Islamic Near East and Arabia, to Buddhism in South Asia and trade in the Indian Ocean, and the archaeology of the medieval, post-medieval and historic periods.
From this widespread students are able to select a combination of specialist taught courses and a dissertation topic in precisely the areas that interest them. At the same time, they will form part of a large cohort of students taking this and associated courses creating a student community amongst whom some courses in research, presentation and practical skills are shared, along with discussions and events. This structure offers the opportunity for interdisciplinary exchange combined with specialist training in key archaeological skills and knowledge, as well as making friendships and contacts from around the world.
By the end of this course, you will have gained detailed specialist knowledge related to your periods/areas of study from our team of leading experts; you will also have developed your skills and experience in areas such as the collection, management and analysis of archaeological data and materials; current archaeological approaches, methods, and practice; the presentation of archaeological research; and a range of practical skills.
The MA in Archaeology is a 180-credit programme comprising two 15-credit modules in research and practical skills training in the first two terms (one per term), two 30-credit specialist research topic modules in the first two terms (one per term) and one 90-credit research dissertation of 20,000 words (developed in term 3 and the summer). It is also possible to take a 20-credit language module from the Centre for Foreign Language Study in lieu of the practical skills module. There is also the option of substituting a specialist research topic module with another MA module on offer in the department and in some instances one offered by another department in the University. See below for other modules offered in the department.
Part-time students are expected to complete the course in two years, typically taking the two 15-credit and two 30-credit modules in the first year and the dissertation in the second year.
In addition to MA Archaeology, you could choose to follow a specific strand or route which will allow you to specialise in certain areas of archaeology. Each route will give you the opportunity to advance your skills and expertise in different areas of archaeology dependent upon your interests and career aims, with a view to progressing either to doctoral-level research or to developing your career. It will enable you to develop skills and experience in areas such as the collection, management and analysis of archaeological data and materials; current archaeological approaches, methods, and practice; the presentation of archaeological research; and a range of practical skills.
You can confirm your route choice on application.
MA Archaeology Prehistory
The MA Archaeology Prehistoric builds on Durham’s long-standing reputation as one of the leading UK centres for the study of European prehistory, with active research projects from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age and from Britain to Iraq. The prehistorians in the department include experts on the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age. With its long tradition of teaching and research on European prehistory, Durham has really excellent library facilities including a wide range of British and European national and regional periodicals. Our approach is exciting and dynamic, with an emphasis on theoretical perspectives and the development of humans in society, in their landscapes, and in their interaction with material culture.
From the wide range of topics on offer you are able to select a combination of specialist taught courses and a dissertation topic in precisely the area/s of Prehistory that interests you.
MA Archaeology Egypt, Asia, Near East
Durham is one of the leading UK departments for teaching and research on the archaeology of Egypt, the Middle East and South Asia, a presence which builds on the University's long tradition of excellence in both archaeology and Middle East studies. The interests of our current staff embrace Egypt, Syria-Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Arabia and the Gulf and South Asia. Chronologically we cover everything from the Neolithic through the Bronze and Iron Ages and into the Islamic period and early European colonial contact.
The geographical range of our research and teaching is unusual for departments of Archaeology and means that your studies will be conducted within a truly stimulating and broad-ranging research environment.
We actively encourage MA students to participate in our research, both amongst the world-class collections of Durham’s Oriental Museum as well as in the field and five of Durham’s MA cohort joined Professor Robin Coningham’s UNESCO-sponsored fieldwork in Nepal in 2020 and six worked on Dr. Penny Wilson’s project in Egypt in 2019.
From the wide range of topics on offer you are able to select a combination of specialist taught courses and a dissertation topic in precisely the area/s of Egypt, Asia, or the Near East that interests you.
MA Archaeology Classical and Roman
Durham is a world-leading department in Roman Archaeology, with one of the largest groups of specialists in the Roman world as well as interests in earlier Greek and neighbouring cultures.
The MA Archaeology Classical and Roman benefits from links with other specialists in the department, including scholars of European prehistory, the Ancient Middle East and the Medieval World, from links with other departments such as Classics, Geography and History, and from staff membership of university research centres such as the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture (CVAC) and the Centre for the Ancient Mediterranean and the Near East (CAMNE).
Our international reputation for innovative research and high-quality teaching derives from the breadth of our chronological and geographical coverage, extending from Ancient Greece and Archaic Rome to Late Antiquity, and from metropolis to frontiers, in areas such as Italy, North Africa, Anatolia, France and Britain.
From the wide range of topics on offer, you are able to select a combination of specialist taught courses and a dissertation topic precisely in the area of Classical and Roman archaeology that interests you.
MA Archaeology Medieval and post-Medieval
Durham University is recognised as a leading centre of excellence for medieval and post-medieval archaeology, with an international reputation for high-quality and wide-ranging research on the historic archaeology of Britain and Europe. Building on a long tradition of early medieval and medieval archaeology established at Durham University by Prof. Rosemary Cramp, the Department offers research and teaching expertise on the historic archaeology of Britain, continental Europe and beyond. Our research strengths include death and burial, religion and belief, monumentality, historiography, trade, urbanism and landscape in medieval and post-medieval Britain, Ireland and continental Europe.
From the wide range of topics, you are able to select a combination of specialist taught courses and a dissertation topic precisely in the area/s of Medieval and Post-Medieval archaeology that interests you.
Research and Study Skills in Social Archaeology (RSSSA) – 15 credits.
This module runs in term 1 and aims to provide you with information and skills relevant to pursuing archaeological research. It combines small group tutorials with a series of lectures and workshops introducing fundamental research tools and skills in archaeology. Assignments bring these together in projects that apply research skills to specialist topics of your choice. Recent assignment types include literature reviews and academic posters.
Practical Research and Study Skills (PRSS) – 15 credits.
This module runs in term 2, where you will select two topics from a range of options in ‘Master Classes’ led by professionals and academic experts, typically taught through workshops. Recent options have included: GIS, geophysics, ceramics analysis, materials analysis, glass analysis, numismatics, museum artefact cataloguing, and 3D imaging.
These classes provide the opportunity to develop professional skills which are assessed through ‘real-life’ assignments, such as professional-quality reports. As noted above, it is possible to substitute PRSS with a 20 credit language module from the Centre for Foreign Language Study.
Research Topics – 30 credits.
Research Topics are detailed courses examining particular periods, areas or themes, and are taught by the Department’s leading experts focussing on their specialist research areas. Teaching is typically delivered through a series of two-hour lectures and one-hour seminars/tutorials, usually over one term. You can choose two Research Topics according to which strand of the MA you are taking (eg ‘Prehistoric’, ‘Classical and Roman’ etc) or in a way that suits your aims.
Topics vary yearly, but as an indication, recent Research Topic options have included:
MA Archaeology: Palaeolithic Britain, Themes in European Upper Palaeolithic Art and Archaeology, Iron Age in Britain in its European Context, Environmental Archaeology of the North Atlantic Islands, Monuments and Landscapes in Atlantic Europe, Archaeology of the Egyptian State: Afterlife, Archaeology of the Egyptian State: Religious Life, The Ancient Near East: Early Complex Societies, The Ancient Near East: Middle to Late Bronze Age, Aspects of South Asian Archaeology, The Archaeology of the Gulf and Eastern Arabia, the Archaeology of the Indian Ocean, Cultural Landscapes of Eurasia, Aspects of Art and Archaeology in Ancient Greece and Beyond, Roman Landscapes of the Mediterranean, Pagans, Christians, Muslims: Changing Townscapes the Mediterranean (North Africa and the Near East) in the First Millennium AD, Iron Age and Roman Heritage: Barbarism, Civilisation and Frontiers, The Archaeology of Early Medieval England c. AD 400-1100, Archaeology of Bronze Age Britain, Death and Burial in Early Medieval Britain AD 400-1100, The Archaeology of Towns in Britain c. 12–18th centuries, The Archaeology of Burial Practice in Britain, c. 12-18th centuries, The Archaeology of the Battle of Dunbar, Human Bioarchaeology, and Medieval China.
MA Archaeology Prehistoric: Palaeolithic Britain (Prof Mark White), Themes in European Upper Palaeolithic Art and Archaeology (Prof Paul Pettitt), Iron Age in Britain in its European Context (Dr Tom Moore), Environmental Archaeology of the North Atlantic Islands (Prof Mike Church), Monuments and Landscapes in Atlantic Europe (Prof Chris Scarre), Archaeology of Bronze Age Britain (Dr. Ben Roberts).
MA Archaeology Egypt, Near East and Asia: Archaeology of the Egyptian State: Afterlife (Dr. Penny Wilson), Archaeology of the Egyptian State: Religious Life (Dr. Penny Wilson), The Ancient Near East: Early Complex Societies (Prof Graham Philip), The Ancient Near East: Middle to Late Bronze Age (Prof Graham Philip), Aspects of South Asian Archaeology (Prof Robin Coningham and Dr. Mark Manuel), The Archaeology of the Gulf and Eastern Arabia (Dr. Derek Kennet), the Archaeology of the Indian Ocean (Dr. Derek Kennet), Cultural Landscapes of Eurasia (Dr. Dan Lawrence).
MA Archaeology Classical and Roman: Aspects of Art and Archaeology in Ancient Greece and Beyond (Dr. Catherine Draycott), Roman Landscapes of the Mediterranean (Dr. Rob Witcher), Pagans, Christians, Muslims: Changing Townscapes the Mediterranean (North Africa and the Near East) in the First Millennium AD (Dr. Anna Leone), Iron Age and Roman Heritage: Barbarism, Civilisation and Frontiers (Prof Richard Hingley).
MA Archaeology Medieval and Post-Medieval: the Archaeology of the Indian Ocean (Dr. Derek Kennet), Pagans, Christians, Muslims: Changing Townscapes the Mediterranean (North Africa and the Near East) in the First Millennium AD (Dr. Anna Leone), The Archaeology of Early Medieval England c. AD 400-1100 (Dr. David Petts), Death and Burial in Early Medieval Britain AD 400-1100 (Dr. Sarah Semple), The Archaeology of Towns in Britain c. 12–18th centuries (Dr. Pam Graves), The Archaeology of Burial Practice in Britain, c. 12-18th centuries (Dr. Pam Graves), The Archaeology of the Battle of Dunbar (Dr. Andrew Millard), and Medieval China (Dr. Ran Zhang).
Applicants are welcome to contact the department to inquire about options on offer in any given year.
It is possible, as noted above, to substitute one of the Research Topic modules for another MA module run by the Archaeology Department, or by another department. For example, in recent years students have taken Anglo-Saxon Societies and Cultures: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Early Medieval England in the Department of History. In discussion with both departments, students have also been able to take modules in other departments, such as the Department of Classics and Ancient History.
Archaeology Dissertation - the capstone of the degree is the dissertation, which allows you to develop your own line of inquiry and explore in-depth a topic of interest to you.
MA dissertations are 20,000 words in length and provide the experience of sustained, rigorous, independent research under the close guidance of a specialist academic supervisor that is a necessary foundation both for further post-graduate academic work and for professional report writing. It also demonstrates professional mastery of a particular area to employers. The topic may be drawn from previous experience or from one of your MA modules. You are supported and guided in choosing your topic, designing your projects, acquiring necessary skills and bringing them to completion through the training imparted in the RSSSA module and through one-to-one consultation with supervisors. You will be asked to identify a topic by term 2; term 3 and the summer are dedicated to dissertation work.
The MA is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops and practical classes. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area and identify the main areas for discussion and debate among archaeologists on a particular theme. Seminars then provide opportunities for smaller groups to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge gained through lectures and through reading. Practical classes and workshops allow you to gain direct experience of practical and interpretative skills in archaeology. Finally, independent supervised study enables you to develop and undertake a research project to an advanced level with the dissertation. Throughout the course emphasis is placed on working independently and developing critical and analytical skills to an advanced level.
The balance of activities changes throughout the course as you develop your knowledge and abilities as researchers, in order to prepare for work or advanced study once having completed the course. In the first two terms you will attend around four hours of lectures, workshops or practical classes, and two one-hour seminars per week. Practical work complements desk-based analytical skills, and is intended to develop skills applicable within and outside the field of archaeology. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare effectively for your classes, enhance your subject knowledge and develop a research agenda. During these first two terms, you have the opportunity to do one or two formative (non-assessed) essays or presentations in preparation for summative (assessed) work. Typically you will submit around three or four pieces of summative work per term, consisting of essays (c. 2,000 or 3,000 words) or practical projects such as posters.
Over term 2 and into term 3 the balance shifts as you develop your abilities as an independent researcher. The lectures and workshops will introduce you to archaeological research methods in specific fields of study and allow you to practice them. You will also engage with academic issues, archaeological datasets and their interpretation. The dissertation is regarded as the capstone of the MA and as an indicator of advanced research potential, which could be developed further in a professional or academic field. Under the close supervision of a specialist member of academic staff you will undertake independent, detailed study of a particular theme, area or research problem, and produce a substantial piece of academic written work of around 20,000 words.
Throughout the course you will also have access to an academic adviser, who will provide you with academic support and guidance. In addition, all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has a vibrant programme of research seminars and research and impact group activities, which you are strongly encouraged to attend.
Typically applicants will have: ideally a degree in archaeology or a related subject entailing experience in historical, material culture and/or visual culture (e.g. Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Art History and Theory, History, Classics, Oriental Studies), although a wider range of backgrounds is acceptable, with 2.1 honours or higher for UK degrees, or international equivalent (please consult the department on international equivalents).
For mature students, relevant employment experience or other qualifications are taken into consideration (again, you are welcome to consult with the department on this). Prior knowledge of specialist areas is not mandatory, but an ability to prove previous interest or experience would be an advantage.
Reference Requirements: One satisfactory reference is required, a further may be requested.
There is no specific deadline for applications, although applications for any given academic year must be received before the start of that academic year.
Tuition fee deposit
All self-financing overseas students are required to pay a £1000 tuition fee deposit if an offer from the Department of Archaeology is accepted. The tuition fee deposit is paid before the University issues a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) number, which is required in order to apply for a visa. £500 deposit is also payable by UK applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.
Fees and funding
Full Time Fees
|Home students||£10,700 per year|
|EU students||£24,250 per year|
|Island students||£10,700 per year|
|International students||£24,250 per year|
Part Time Fees
|Home students||£5,885 per year|
|EU students||£13,340 per year|
|Island students||£5,885 per year|
|International students||£13,340 per year|
The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).
Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.
Scholarships and Bursaries
We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities.Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries
Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.
Our internationally respected research expertise will provide you with some of the best resources available for archaeological research. Here at Durham, we have one of only three commercial archaeology units in the UK based in a university department. You will be able to work with experts and have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and specialised facilities in the Department of Archaeology.
For more information see our department pages.
- 4th in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Archaeology 2021.
- 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2021.
- 3rd in The Guardian University Guide 2021.
Research Excellence Framework
- Ranked joint 1st in the UK for Internationally Excellent and World-leading research impact (REF 2014).
We are one of the most comprehensively equipped archaeology departments in the UK. Our facilities include project rooms with state-of-the-art interactive technology, teaching laboratories, a computer suite, a photographic studio, internationally renowned scientific research laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotopes, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, palaeopathology, soil and bone chemistry, and collections that support research in biometrics, informatics, and Anglo Saxon stone sculpture.
More information on our facilities and equipment.
The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!