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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses 2019/20>Early Prehistory and Human Origins (MSc)

MSc Early Prehistory and Human Origins

Explore what it means to be human

Year of entry: 2019


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

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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Are you interested in what it means to be human, where we came from and how humans developed and adapted? Then this course is for you.

The archaeology of human origins is a fascinating and dynamic area of research, with new evidence and theories constantly changing our interpretation of who we are. 

On this course you'll explore the archaeology and approaches to human origins whilst working alongside internationally renowned specialists in early prehistoric archaeology and human evolution. You'll get the opportunity to work on pioneering studies with the potential for significant media exposure and gain ‘hands on’ experience of museum collections at the York Museum. You'll be able to select modules to allow you to explore your own research interests and have the chance to visit Upper Palaeolithic rock art on a field trip to Creswell Crags.

The course addresses fascinating questions such as: what makes us ‘human’? How did early human societies work? How different were Neanderthals from ourselves and why did they die out? What was life like in the Ice Age? We debate these questions and many others within a lively research environment as you build up your knowledge and experience of early prehistoric societies from three million to 5,000 years ago.

The course is also available as an MA in Early Prehistory with Human Origins with the two awards being differentiated by dissertation topic and approach.

Course content

You will study a total of 180 credits over the course. You will study two core modules (worth 20 credits each), two optional modules (worth 20 credits each) and four shorter skills modules of your choice (each work 5 credits). Finally, you will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your chosen topic. This will be worth a total of 80 credits. 


Core modules

Option modules

You will the select two further 20-credit modules and four shorter 'skills' modules (5 credits each). 

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


You will carry out research for and then produce your dissertation (which determines whether your qualification is MA or MSc). This will be 15-20,000 words in length. You'll also give an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic. In total, your dissertation and lecture will be worth 80 credits.

Previous dissertation topics have included:

  • Narratives within Upper Palaeolithic cave art
  • The prehistory of compassion
  • Neanderthal children and burial
  • Childhood in evolutionary perspectives
  • Venus figurines
  • Reinterpreting Clactonian and Acheulian assemblages
  • New perspectives on microliths and social status

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:

  • have developed an awareness of the scope of Early Prehistory and knowledge of key early prehistoric societies
  • be able to identify key transitions in human evolution
  • be aware of the issues of interpreting archaeological evidence for early prehistoric societies
  • have developed a critical understanding of the key debates in the period
  • have developed your ability to gather and organise information and arguments in a critical and independent manner through writing essays and producing projects
  • have undertaken a piece of independent research on a topic within early prehistory
  • have developed your presentational skills through the delivery of seminar papers on a range of diverse themes

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year) £7,810£17,370
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee
Part-time (3 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

Students on a Tier 4 Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Additional costs

We don't anticipate there being any additional fees associated with this course. All books and resources you need will be available in the library or online and it isn't mandatory that you buy your own copies. You may wish to set aside a small budget for photocopying, depending on how you like to work.

Field trips are funded by the Department at no additional cost to you.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

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

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

Home/EU students

International students

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.

Beautiful surroundings

Study in King's Manor, a beautiful Medieval building in the centre of historic York.

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.

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 lectures and seminars, with an emphasis on student led-discussion and presentations.

Teaching location

The majority of your teaching will take place at King's Manor in the city centre. Additional teaching may take place at locations 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
  • Or alternative assessment methods such as film-making, blogging or posters

Careers and skills

This course offers a broad range of essential skills and expertise, specialist knowledge and insight, which are relevant to a wide variety of careers or further study. Many of our students go on to pursue research at PhD level while others have taken up careers in heritage, conservation, the archaeology sector and academia.

Career opportunities

  • PhD level research
  • Heritage careers
  • Conservation work
  • the Archaeology sector work
  • Positions within academia

Transferable skills

  • Time-management
  • Awareness of societies and how they work
  • Critical understanding of arguments
  • How to formulate and construct debate
  • Communication skills
  • Research skills
  • Presentation skills

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
  • A good honours degree (upper second or first class) or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution in archaeology, anthropology or a related field.  
  • Mature students or those with less conventional qualifications but with relevant experience in this field will be considered. If you are uncertain whether your qualifications or experience are appropriate, please contact the Course Director.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability

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 IELTS 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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Department of Archaeology

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