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MA Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology

Unearth new answers to age-old questions

Year of entry: 2024 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time,
3 years part-time

Start date

September 2024 (semester dates)

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in the UK for archaeology

QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023

in the world for archaeology

QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023

Get hands-on with the past with a Masters degree that teaches you all about artefacts and materials, exploring questions such as how objects were made, used and valued by past societies.

This course gives you key analytical skills in practical and theoretical approaches used to study material culture. In experimental archaeology, you get hands-on experience reconstructing ancient technologies and crafts as a way of better understanding the properties of different materials and how objects and buildings were made. Material culture studies involve working with and analysing objects and the materials from which they are made. You will explore objects and materials from different periods, giving you a fantastic insight into the archaeological record as well as developing skills for your future career.

Analysis of objects and materials is at the heart of archaeological practice, as well as museum curation and conservation. You will explore environmental contexts and important conservation questions such as preservation and decay. Digital and biomolecular methods are both strengths of York, and are increasingly being used in artefact studies. Our course allows you to choose modules that excite you across prehistory or historical periods and methodological specialisms.

What I love about the course is that I have developed an entirely new perspective on the technological production of archaeological materials. I have learned to challenge archaeological questions and hypotheses and develop my own research interests.
Shima, Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology student

Unparalleled resources

The York Experimental Archaeological Research (YEAR) centre, where you'll complete much of your practical work, is increasingly being recognised as a world-leader in experimental research. With our (BioArCh) and palaeoecology (PalaeoHub) laboratories located nearby, you'll be able to carry out outdoor experiments then take your work inside for processing and analyses.

Feel at home

Informality is one of our distinctive qualities - the atmosphere in our department is friendly, supportive and enthusiastic. We want you to develop your potential and thrive at York.

Research excellence

Ranked 6th overall for our research according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

Course content

You will study 180 credits over the duration of your course:

  • Semester 1 - two cores and one option module
  • Semester 2 - two option modules with an 80 credit dissertation
  • Summer Semester - 80 credit dissertation continued


Core modules

Option modules

You'll also study three option modules. Examples from previous years have included:

You'll also have the opportunity to choose options from our full module catalogue:

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff, and in line with Department/School academic planning.


You'll complete a 15,000-word dissertation and assessed lecture on your research.

You will receive support, advice and guidance from your dissertation supervisor throughout your project. The range of expertise of our staff means we can provide you with guidance on a wide range of topics. You will have one-to-one meetings with supervisors across Semester 2 and the Summer Semester.

Examples of previous dissertations include:

  • The life course of an early Anglo Saxon burial urn
  • If I Had a Hammer: Non-Ferrous Sheet Metal Working in the Viking Age
  • The Meaning and Production of Bread in the Anglo-Saxon World
  • Forming techniques of Lincoln Gritty wares: a milestone moment of ceramic production in England’s 9th century.
  • The Materiality of Jet and the Re-examination of Jet Ornaments in Bronze Age Britain
  • The Smelting of British Bronze Age Society: Understanding societal and lifeway changes in Bronze Age Southern Britain

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a deep systematic understanding of disciplinary knowledge of the field of experimental archaeology and material culture studies, and awareness of its breadth and its relevant academic, professional and socio-economic contexts.
  • Engage critically with current debates and advanced scholarship in local and international research and practice within the field of experimental archaeology and material culture studies in order to evaluate the field of practice.
  • Inform decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations by assessing and applying advanced, professional-level theories and methodologies relating to the field of experimental archaeology and material culture studies to diverse problems or complex forms of data.
  • Confidently synthesise research findings and key scholarly debates, and communicate (through a variety of forms and media) to peers, public and professional audiences in such a way that demonstrates an ability to consider and adapt to their respective needs.
  • Demonstrate originality in rigorous and imaginative independent inquiry, using advanced research skills, and a clear contribution to the work of a team and an awareness of the diverse strengths of others.
  • Confidently apply current theoretical, ethical, and methodological debates in material culture and experimental archaeology to relevant case studies, as a mechanism for reflecting upon their own practice.
  • Confidently demonstrate and autonomously apply skills gained to an individual object-based study, from the design of the research to its critically aware final presentation.
  • Understand the role of relevant disciplinary and interdisciplinary specialisms in the practical analysis and theoretical interpretation of material culture and its role in past cultures.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2024/25

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £10,590£23,900
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
Part-time (3 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Student Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study.

  • UK (home) fees may increase in subsequent years (up to a maximum of 2%).
  • International fees may increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

There may be minimal costs associated with the purchase of raw materials for experiments if this forms part of your dissertation.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2024/25 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Funding opportunities

We have a variety of  available within the department.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You will be taught through a combination of outdoor practical sessions, field trips, lectures, workshops and seminars.


Facilities for material culture research are located on Campus West, in PalaeoHub and at the YEAR Centre.

Teaching location

You'll be based on Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You will be assessed by a variety of methods. Depending on which modules you opt to take, these could include: 

  • Essays
  • Oral presentations
  • Report writing
  • Dissertation
  • Alternative assessment methods such as film-making, blogging or posters

Careers and skills

Our graduates have gone on to get jobs in the heritage sector, working in museums and as artefact specialists in commercial archaeological companies. Several of our students have gone on to further studies, receiving prestigious PhD funding.

Career opportunities

  • Artefact analysis specialist
  • Heritage film maker
  • Commerical archaeologist
  • Museum education/outreach
  • Cultural heritage journalist
  • Researcher

Transferable skills

  • Comparison and correlation of disparate data
  • Creative thinking
  • Theoretically/methodologically informed decision making
  • Analytical and technical research skills
  • Communication to multiple and distinct audiences
  • People skills & time management
  • Project management

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent in Archaeology, Anthropology or a related field.
Other qualifications and experience Alternative qualifications and professional experience will also be considered.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

You will need to submit examples of written work with your application. Please see our guidance on submitting written work.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS (Academic and Indicator) 6.5, minimum 6.5 in Writing and 6.0 in all other components
Cambridge CEFR B2 First: 176, with a minimum of 176 in Writing and no less than 169 in all other components
Oxford ELLT 7, minimum of 7 in writing and no less than 6 in all other components
Duolingo 120, minimum 120 in production and 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert Academic 70 with a minimum of 70 in Writing and no less than 65 in all other components
KITE 459-494, with 459-494 in writing and 426-458 in all other components
Skills for English B2: Merit overall, with Merit in writing and Pass with Merit in all other components
PTE Academic 61, minimum 61 in Writing and 55 in all other components
TOEFL 87, minimum 23 in Writing and 21 in all other components
Trinity ISE III Merit in all components

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you haven't met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation online. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Andrew Needham, Course Director

Learn more

Department of Archaeology

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