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MSc Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology

Unearth new answers to age-old questions

2018/19 entry

Length

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

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

Masters taster days

28 February, 7 and 14 March

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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: from designing and executing your own experimental archaeology project, the analysis of microscopic wear and residue traces, working with objects from excavations and museum collections, to 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 MA Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology

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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 (2017/18)

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 palaeocology (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.

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 (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.

Modules

Core modules

Ethnoarchaeology (20 credits) provides both a theoretical and practical introduction to the ethnographic study of people for archaeological purposes. You'll learn how ethnoarchaeology can help archaeologists to understand the past, working through different areas of study: discard patterns, hunter-gatherer archaeology, craft production and consumption, the use of space in houses and settlements, and engagement with the material world.

Experimental Archaeology Theory and Practice (20 credits) enables you to acquire the theoretical skills required to engage and reflect critically on your own experimental research aims and objectives. You'll consider theoretical and ethical aspects of EA research, the differences between reenactment and EA, how EA can be employed to reconstruct artefact and house biographies, as well as the use of digital imaging and media as analytical tools and important forms of dissemination.

Experimental Archaeology Design and Practice (5 credits) equips you with the practical skills required to design, conduct and critique experiments related to material culture. You'll get hands-on practical experience outdoors, fireside, at the YEAR Centre. Within your team you'll produce a short documentary film based on your experimental research, which will be exhibited at the end of the course, providing excellent experience for future careers in the heritage sector.

Material Culture Theory in Practice (5 credits) prepares you for working with objects in many different contexts. It provides a background in both practical and theoretical aspects of object studies. Each session will focus on a type of material, and a particular area of theory about interpreting the material world.

Option modules

You'll be able to choose modules from all of the options available to postgraduate students, as long as they don't clash in your timetable and the module isn't oversubscribed.

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

Dissertation

You'll carry 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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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.

A wealth of expertise

We're an internationally-renowned centre for prehistoric, Medieval and post-Medieval studies.

Thriving research community

You'll be part of our community of postgraduates and staff, as well as a wider network of museum professionals, field units such as the York Archaeological Trust, and national bodies such as the Council for British Archaeology, Historic England, English Heritage and the Archaeology Data Service.

Highly respected

We're recognised worldwide for our research and excellence in teaching - we're ranked 11th in the World University Rankings for Archaeology.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2018/19

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year)£7,580£16,780
Part-time (3 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
£2,527
year 1 fee
£5,593
year 1 fee
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
£3,790
year 1 fee
£8,390
year 1 fee

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

The Department of Archaeology offer a number of scholarships for postgraduate students. Find details of postgraduate funding.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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

Facilities for material culture research, including microscopy, are currently being built within the Department of Archaeology's new PaleoHub building, located a stone's throw away from our bioarchaeology laboratories (BioArCh) and the outdoor experimental centre (YEAR). These new material culture facilities are expected to be completed by the 2018/19 academic year.

Teaching location

The Department of Archaeology is located in King's Manor in the city centre. The BioArCh and YEAR centre are based in the Environment Building on Campus West.

Course location

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

Qualification Grade
Degree

A good honours degree (upper second or first class) in archaeology, anthropology or a related field (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution). 

Alternative qualifications, and professional experience will also be considered.

English language

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

  • IELTS: 6.5, with a minimum of 6.5 in Writing and no less than 6.0 in all other components
  • PTE: 61, with a minimum of 61 in Writing and no less than 55 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 176, with a minimum of 176 in Writing and no less than 169 in all other components
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 23 in Writing and a minimum of 21 in all other components
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Merit in all components

Applying

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.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Contact our admissions team if you have any questions

Learn more

Department of Archaeology

Related courses

  • MSc Related Course
  • MA Related Course with links

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