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Student drawing an archaeology find
MA Archaeology
An In-depth exploration into the material and social world of past human societies.

MA Archaeology / Course details

Year of entry: 2017

Course description

Archaeology at Manchester is internationally recognised as a centre for social archaeology. The MA in Archaeology thus facilitates a fascinating journey into the material and social world of past human societies. By combining theory with practice, we are able to ask fundamental questions about the complex web of inter-relationships between societies, individuals, animals and plants, the built environment as well as the material world. This socially-focused approach also encourages a critical and self-reflective attitude towards the politics and practice of archaeology today. Working at the forefront of knowledge and interpretation, the MA brings together researchers of international calibre with specialization in a wide range of geographical areas and chronological periods, and thus offers a unique and stimulating environment for postgraduate study.

This MA programme fosters strong student-led research. By encouraging you to propose your own essay, presentation and dissertation topics, the MA allows you to pursue your specific archaeological interests throughout all our modules.

The MA in Archaeology will appeal to:

  • Those wishing to explore the following themes: history, theory and practice of archaeology; the archaeology of cultural identity; landscape, monuments and architecture; technology and society; death and the body; archaeological heritage and the contemporary significance of the past.
  • Those interested in the following geographical areas or chronological periods: Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Iron Age Britain, Neolithic and Bronze Age Near East and Greece, Pacific and historical/colonial archaeology, as well as the role of the past in contemporary societies.
  • Those whose first degree was in a related discipline (eg Anthropology, Museology, History of Art, History) and now wish to take a postgraduate degree in Archaeology in order to gain a solid grounding in the discipline.
  • Those who have a first degree in Archaeology (single or joint honours) who wish to advance their knowledge, understanding and skills in an exciting research led environment at the forefront of new developments and discoveries.


  The Programme aims are to:
  • Enable you to develop their understanding of the interrelationship between archaeological theory, interpretation and practice.
  • Provide you with an overview of a range of theoretical approaches to artefacts, architecture and landscape, and encourage you to explore these in relation to specific case studies.
  • Encourage you to develop critical skills concerning inference and interpretation
  • Encourage you to develop a critical awareness of the contemporary social and political context of archaeology.
  • Enhance and amplify previously acquired disciplinary and transferable skills.
  • Enable you to undertake self-critical original research (through the MA dissertation).

Coursework and assessment

In addition to the compulsory core module `Archaeologies of the Past, Present and Future', students take three option course units and complete a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation. Most teaching will take place in small interactive seminar groups, involving, as appropriate, directed-reading, staff and student presentations, discussion, debate, problem-solving and group-work. Assessment is both formative and summative. Most courses are summatively assessed by a 6,000-word essay. Oral presentations, poster presentations, self-reflective learning reports and assessed group work may also be used and additional formative feedback is given throughout.

Course unit details

You will take the compulsory Research Training Module and three option course units. Over the summer, you will complete your 12,000 to 15,000-word dissertation.

Compulsory course units:

  • Archaeologies of the Past, Present and Future : This course questions, problematises and challenges existing approaches to archaeology and actively seeks out emerging issues and future `hot topics'. Interdisciplinary by nature, the course emphasises how past and present are conjoined in all aspects of archaeological engagement. Students are encouraged to develop a critical and self-reflective perspective of archaeological practice and thinking.
  • Dissertation : Consists of a 12 - 15,000 word thesis that provides students with an opportunity to engage in original research with the support of a dedicated supervisor. The dissertation develops a student's ability to identify a research question, frame a problem, analyse sources, plan and conduct an extended piece of research and articulate the findings using appropriate academic language and conventions.

Optional course units:

  • Archaeology of Social Identities : The course aims to provide students with a knowledge and understanding of the material production, display, performance, and consumption of social identities as an intrinsic element of archaeological interpretation.
  • Producing and Consuming Heritage : This course provides students with a knowledge and understanding of the production and consumption of archaeological heritage, as well as its relationship to identity, memory and place.
  • Prehistoric Britain in its European Context : Focusing on the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age, this course examines key themes, debates and evidence sets across Prehistoric Britain.
  • Archaeology and Society in the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean : Drawing on symbolic, socio-cultural, environmental, technological and religious aspects, this course explores core debates around the question of how societies in the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean adapted to the challenges of life and negotiated their own identities.

Free choice:

Subject to approval by the programme director, one option course unit may be taken from other MA programmes elsewhere in the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, or the Faculty of Humanities. These may include:

Anthropological and theoretical courses:

  • Anthropology of Sound
  • Anthropology of Vision, Senses and Memory
  • Gender and Postcolonial Theory
  • Religion, Nature and Society
  • The Cultural Turn
  • Cities and Migration
  • Exhibiting Cultures
  • Constructions of the Sacred, the Holy and the Supernatural
  • War, Conflict and History

Period-specific courses:

  • City of Rome
  • Greek Myth: Society and Psychology
  • Greek Religion and Society
  • Magic in the Ancient Mediterranean World
  • Constantine's Dream: Religion and Society in Late Antiquity
  • Pagan States and Christianity in the Roman Near East
  • The City as History: Urban Spaces in Modern Europe 1848-1930
  • Signs of the Times in Victorian Britain
  • William Blake and Victorian Culture
  • Victorian Stained Glass
  • Bible and Early Judaism in Context
  • Writing, Power, Memory: The History of the Book in the Middle Ages
  • New Testament in the Roman Empire
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Regional Anthropology: Sub-Saharan Africa

Applied courses:

  • Museum Gallery and Curating - Curating Archaeology
  • Museum Policy and Management
  • Arts Management Principles and Practice
  • Digital Image Processing and Data Analysis
  • GIS & Environmental Applications

(NB course units are subject to change according to the commitments of individual staff).

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Dissertation ARGY60010 60 Mandatory
Archaeologies of the Past,Present and Future ARGY60351 30 Mandatory
Archaeology and Society in the Near East and Mediterranean ARGY60362 30 Optional
Archaeology of Social Identities ARGY60371 30 Optional
Producing and Consuming Heritage ARGY60382 30 Optional
Prehistoric Britain in its European Context ARGY60392 30 Optional
Producing and Consuming Heritage 15 credits ARGY60502 15 Optional
Archaeology and Society in the Near East and Med 15cr ARGY60602 15 Optional
Archaeology of Social Identities 15cr ARGY60701 15 Optional
Prehistoric Britain in its European Context ARGY60902 15 Optional


Our staff are our most important resource for postgraduate study, providing you with taught courses and research supervision at the forefront of archaeological enquiry. The expertise of the core academic staff is supplemented by several honorary lecturers and a varying number of postdoctoral research fellows, many of whom specialise in the study of particular classes of archaeological material, such as lithics, textiles, metalwork and pottery.

The Manchester Museum, which is part of the University, has outstanding collections of Egyptian, Classical and other antiquities. Our students can also draw upon the resources of museums in Chester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Carlisle.

Many academic staff have close connections with national heritage bodies, such as English Heritage and Historic Scotland, and postgraduates studying the conservation, management and representation of archaeological heritage often engage with these institutions, as well as with the museums mentioned above, and many more beyond the region.

The main library provision is the John Rylands University Library, one of the best university libraries in Britain. Its resources for archaeology have been built up over several decades and, as a consequence, there is a substantial collection in this area. Likewise, the social anthropology collection is very good and provides an excellent resource for postgraduate students working in the realm of anthropological archaeology. We share a reference library with Art History and Visual Studies, which contains key high demand texts and provides a quiet working environment.

Teaching rooms and the reference library/reading room are currently situated together in a modern building with a café and communal seating areas. There are two laboratories, one of which is dedicated to postgraduate and staff research. Archaeology shares a common room with art history and visual studies, where staff and students can interact. Wthin the same building there are network computer clusters for postgraduate students.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: