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MA Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology

Unearth new answers to age-old questions

Year of entry: 2021 (September)


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

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

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Material culture tells the story of people and their things: allowing us insights into the significance that objects held for people in the past.

Interweaving practical and theoretical approaches to material culture, this course explores ethnoarchaeological and experimental archaeological approaches to objects, alongside functional analyses of a broad range of artefact types.

You will discover the theories underpinning our understanding of the material world while developing invaluable practical skills such as designing and executing your own experimental archaeology project, the analysis of microscopic wear and residue traces, working with objects from excavations and museum collections or making a short documentary film for the heritage sector.

Whatever your period of interest is, this course will equip you with the skills and experience you need to begin a career in cultural heritage, academia, or commercial archaeology.

This course is also available as an MSc Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology.

A very enjoyable module. It challenges your preconceptions about replicating artifacts from natural materials and you'll leave with a newfound respect for prehistoric peoples and their skills. From the outdoor lab to the enthusiastic staff you'll learn more than you ever could from simply reading about archaeology.
Andrew, student on Experimental Archaeology Research and Design module

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

In the Times Higher Education's ranking of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework results, the Department was in the top five for research impact.

Course content

The course consists of:

  • Two core modules (20 credits each)
  • Two core research skills modules (5 credits each)
  • Two option modules (20 credits each)
  • Two option research skills modules (5 credits each)
  • A dissertation and assessed lecture (80 credits)

You'll also complete an Essential Skills module, which will prepare you for your dissertation (this module counts towards your dissertation credits). Your dissertation topic will determine whether you are awarded an MA or an MSc.


Core modules

Option modules

You will study two further 20-credit modules and two 5-credit 'skills' modules from our full range of options. Examples include:

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.


You'll complete a dissertation and related assessed lecture (80 credits), carrying out a piece of original independent research using appropriate scientific or laboratory (MSc) or disciplinary (MA) skills.

You'll have regular meetings with your supervisor who is there to offer support, guidance and encouragement throughout the dissertation writing process.

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 (scientific) 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/scientific analysis and theoretical interpretation of material culture and its role in past cultures

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2021/22

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £8,440£18,700
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 (formerly Tier 4 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. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

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 2021/22 throughout the year.

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

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.

Coronavirus (Covid-19): changes to courses

We've made some changes to the way our courses are delivered to minimise potential disruption from the ongoing global pandemic.

Teaching format

The core modules involve outdoor practical sessions, field trips, practical labs using microscopes and the handling of reference collections, as well as small seminars, roundtable discussions and lectures.


Facilities for material culture research, including are located within the Department of Archaeology's new , located a stone's throw away from our (BioArCh) and the  (YEAR).

Teaching location

The Department of Archaeology is based in King's Manor, in York city centre. Your teaching will be split between the Department and the BioArCh and YEAR centres 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'll be assessed via a number of methods, including essays, oral presentations, the production of a short documentary, report writing and your dissertation.

Careers and skills

This course will equip you for a number of careers in a diverse range of sectors, including the heritage sector, commercial archaeology, film, television and journalism. It will also give you a solid foundation for further study and research within academia.

Career opportunities

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

Transferable skills

  • High level of written and oral skills
  • Problem solving
  • Numerical literacy
  • Teamwork
  • Project management
  • Time management

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent in Archaeology, Anthropology or a related field. We also consider applicants who have a 2:2 degree and relevant work experience.
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 6.5, minimum 6.5 in Writing and 6.0 in all other components
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 176 in Writing and 169 in all other components
Duolingo 110, minimum 110 in production and 100 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've not 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 electronically through our online system. 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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