Taught course

Archaeological Science

Durham University · Department of Archaeology

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to be awarded, a 2:1 Honours degree in the social or natural sciences or an international equivalent, such as a GPA of 3.3 or above.

Months of entry


Course content

The MSc in Archaeological Science is designed to provide a broad theoretical and practical understanding of current issues and the techniques archaeologists use to investigate the human past. Its purpose is to provide a pathway for archaeologists or graduates of other scientific disciplines to either professional posts or doctoral research in archaeological science. It focuses particularly on the organic remains of humans, animals and plants which is a rapidly developing and exciting field of archaeometry. Major global themes such as animal and plant domestication and human migration and diet will be explored integrating evidence from a range of sub-disciplines in environmental and biomolecular archaeology.

Students taking this course will study and work in a range of environmental, DNA, isotope and dating laboratories alongside expert academic staff.

The aim of this programme is to enable you to:

  • Devise and carry out in-depth study in archaeological science
  • Analyse and interpret results
  • Communicate scientific results to a variety of audiences
  • Develop the inter-disciplinary skills (cultural and scientific) to work effectively in archaeology.

You will gain a critical understanding of the application of scientific techniques to our study of the human past, and receive intensive training in a specific area of archaeological science. You will examine the theory underpinning a range of scientific techniques, as well as the current archaeological context in which they are applied and interpreted. This will be achieved through a broad archaeological framework which will educate you in reconciling the underlying constraints of analytical science with the concept-based approach of cultural archaeology. You will therefore examine both theoretical and practical approaches to particular problems, and to the choice of suitable techniques to address them. You will learn how to assess the uncertainties of their conclusions, and to acknowledge the probable need for future reinterpretations as the methods develop. Following training in one specific archaeological science area of your choice, you will be expected to demonstrate that you can combine a broad contextual and theoretical knowledge of archaeology with a detailed understanding of the methods in your chosen area, through an original research dissertation.

Course Structure

The course consists of four taught modules of 30 credits each and a 60 credit research dissertation. You will study two core modules in Term 1 and two elective modules in Term1/2 followed by a research dissertation.

Core Modules

  • Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science
  • Topics in Archaeological Science
  • Research Dissertation.

Optional Modules

In previous years, optional modules available included:

  • Themes in Palaeopathology.
  • Plants and People.
  • Animals and People.
  • Chronometry.
  • Isotope and Molecular Archaeology.
  • Practical Guided Study.

Information for international students

English Language requirements include a recent English language test score of 7.0 or above in IELTS with no component under 6.5; or 600 or above in TOEFL PBT; or 102 or above with no element below 25 in TOEFL IBT; or an equivalent qualification.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students


Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Department of Archaeology
+44 (0)191 334 1100