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  • Delivery:

Please note that this course is not recruiting for September 2017

The Faculty offers many other related courses which you may find are a suitable alternative:

You will be taught by some of the UK’s leading practitioners in the sector, and under the guidance of this dedicated and enthusiastic team you can expect to develop your archaeological skills to reach your full potential.

Want to know more?

Presented by Paul Kneller, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science, the recorded BU Webinar will give you an excellent insight into these courses. You can watch the webinar on youtube. Or why not visit us at the next postgraduate open afternoon?

Key information


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Relevant subjects:

Archaeology, history, geography, geology, classics or ancient history

Entry requirements:

A Bachelors Honours degree, 2:2 or above or equivalent in a relevant subject area and/or relevant comprehensive professional experience. If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS 6.5 (Academic) or above. For more information check out our full entry requirements.

Course details

Core units

  • Techniques of Archaeological Recovery & Recording: Taking part in field work exercises and practical demonstrations gives you grounding in the methods involved in archaeological field recording and recovery.  You'll learn about the principles of location, survey, excavation and the planning and recording of archaeological finds and features. You'll also learn about planning field projects, which covers health & safety and budgeting.
  • Research Project: Develop your expertise in research methods, data collection, analysis, interpretation and synthesis and explore in detail core aspects of your subject area, with a view to generating new practical or theoretical insights. You will develop methodological, research, presentation skills and advanced communication skills by producing an extensive dissertation or report on your research.

Option units

  • Applied Field Investigation: You will have the opportunity to plan, monitor, record and report on an element of an archaeological field project, in which you have taken a responsible role using the methods, practices and skills typically used within professional archaeological projects and research. Before undertaking the fieldwork, you will gain an understanding of how to plan field projects and produce an appropriate project design, including health and safety and budgeting aspects. Having completed a supervisory field project, you will produce a report to industry standards. A minimum of four weeks experience of working on an archaeological field project would normally be expected to undertake this unit.
  • Bodies of Evidence - Skeletal Changes Before & After Death: This unit focuses on skeletonised remains and interpreting material from forensic contexts, although the content will also be relevant to archaeological material and some consideration will be given to soft tissue remains. The unit will consider changes that take place during an individual’s life and after death that produce variations in the nature and appearance of the skeleton. Variation sources during life include disease processes and injuries affecting bone, whilst post-mortem events include the decomposition processes, changes in the burial environment and alteration by burning. You'll also consider the ways skeletal samples can be investigated statistically at the level of populations. Professional frameworks relating to forensic casework and procedures and methods of report writing will also be taught.

  • Forensic Archaeology: This lecture-based unit explores the principles, techniques and methodologies of traditional archaeological practices when they are adapted to use in forensic contexts. Theoretical and practical concepts of archaeology such as stratigraphy, remote sensing, geophysical survey, search, location, recovery and dating techniques are covered. The application of these methods to forensic scenes is demonstrated through a series of domestic and international case studies. Techniques employed in the excavation of single and mass graves are also explored.

  • Management of Archaeological Material: The aim of this unit is to provide you with the basic principles and understanding behind caring for, treating and curating artefacts from archaeological sites, with particular attention on finds from wet sites like marine or freshwater. Learning and teaching methods include introductory lectures on the problems and issues related to material from archaeological excavations, with a particular focus on waterlogged material. You'll also be given practical experience of stabilisation, excavation, in situ protection and recovering finds.

  • Maritime Archaeology: Gain an understanding of the principles and history of maritime archaeology. You'll gain knowledge of materials and site types in the maritime archaeological record and the principles and scope of maritime studies.

  • Principles & Methods in Human Osteology: An introduction to the basic principles of analysis and interpretation involved in studying skeletal remains of modern humans from archaeological and forensic contexts. This covers the principles and application of biological profiling from the skeleton. Characteristics covered include age-at death, biological sex, stature and metric and non-metric variation. You'll also get a general introduction to skeletal anatomy, the sub-adult skeleton and the dentition and differences between human and non-human animal bone. The unit functions as a self-contained introduction to human osteology at Master's level which can stand alone or form the foundation for more advanced study of human skeletal remains.

  • Principles & Methods in Zooarchaeology: This unit will provide you with a solid basis in the principles of identification of mammals, birds and fish and the recording and analytical methods currently employed in the study of animal bones from archaeological sites. It will also provide you with an appreciation of how animal bone studies are integrated with other aspects of archaeology. You will learn mainly through practical workshops, in which you will further your familiarity with zoo archaeological assemblages and techniques, through the handling of material and by practical exercises based on that material. Case studies will explore how investigations of faunal remains can be integrated within the wider discipline of archaeology.

  • Marine Environment, Heritage & Spatial Planning: Environmental changes in the marine environment have affected the degradation and preservation of underwater heritage. This unit, which may involve field trips, will help you understand the effect of physical, chemical and biological damage to the historic environment and natural hazards to historical and archaeological sites in coastal and shallow marine environments. After completing this unit, you'll be able to manage in situ degradation and the protection of underwater archaeological sites, and appraise mitigation methods for preserving our underwater cultural heritage in situ

  • Archaeology of Human Remains: An introduction to the basic principles of analysis and interpretation involved in studying skeletal remains of modern humans from archaeological and forensic contexts. This covers the principles and application of biological profiling from the skeleton. Characteristics covered include age-at death, biological sex, stature and metric and non-metric variation. You'll also get a general introduction to skeletal anatomy, the sub-adult skeleton and the dentition and differences between human and non-human animal bone. The unit functions as a self-contained introduction to human osteology at Master's level which can stand alone or form the foundation for more advanced study of human skeletal remains.

  • Advanced Zooarchaeology: Your identification skills will be put to practice during this explorative unit of a diverse range of skeletal remains. You will evaluate the potential of archaeological data and consider ways in which you can put together an appropriate programme of post-excavation analysis and design a suitable recording scheme for a selected body of material.

  • Human Evolution: The global record of human evolution from seven million - twelve thousand years ago. You'll explore the many lines of evidence which contribute to our understanding of this period including archaeological material, fossil anatomy, geochronology, landscape change and ancient DNA. There will be much emphasis the Old World, although the global dispersal of humans will also be covered. You'll develop a critical understanding of theories underpinning the study of human evolution, including evolutionary theory, adaptive ecological strategies and behavioural and biological change. The overarching aim is for you to achieve a deep understanding of the interdisciplinary basis of human evolution, and to develop the skills for navigating expanding and rapidly changing field independently. Unit delivery will be aimed at developing expertise in analytical and critical thinking, and confidence in communication and presentation.

  • Humans, Animals & Diet: Gain a detailed understanding of the history of animal exploitation for food and the inter-relationships between humans and animals in different periods and regions. This unit aims to provide you with knowledge of the major developments in animal exploitation in Britain. A number of central themes in zoo archaeological studies will be explored that can be applied to the study of human diets in European, Asian and New World contexts. You will also be developing critical awareness of the range of cultural attitudes towards animals, in different human societies.

  • Applied Maritime Archaeology: This unit is designed to take advantage of any maritime archaeological projects that Bournemouth University may run in the future. Students will need at least CMAS 2 Star diving qualifications to participate.

Please note that option units require minimum numbers in order to run and may only be available on a semester by semester basis. They may also change from year to year.

Programme specification

Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.

Download the programme specification for MSc Archaeology.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.

Selection criteria

Background and experience

This course enables graduates with a first degree in an associated subject (history, geography, geology, classics, and ancient History) to begin their career in archaeology. We welcome graduates from around the globe with a first degree in an archaeology or closely related subject who are considering a career in professional archaeology, to come and study with us here at BU.

For MSc Archaeology we are looking for applicants who:

  • Have enthusiasm to learn a wide range of skills relating to archaeological practice
  • Are keen to apply the skills they gain on their degree course to real working environments in practical archaeology
  • Can demonstrate an academic interest and ability in archaeology and related disciplines, and who have suitable qualifications or relevant experience
  • Can demonstrate a practical interest in archaeology by having participated in volunteer work or by having other relevant practical experience.

We are looking for students who wish to broaden and deepen their suite of archaeological skills and wish to be able to apply them in a professional environment, or to take them further through a higher research degree. We particularly encourage applications from people who have an enthusiasm for developing an advanced range of practical and applied, field and post-excavation skills. From excavation recording skills to engaging with the latest topographic and geophysical survey techniques we seek students who want to gain hands on experience, and also want the flexibility to engage with specialist units. Students on this degree course will typically be able to demonstrate a strong interest in the discipline and have already had some practical archaeological experience.

Selection methods

We’ll be selecting the candidates for this course by looking at their applications – there are no interviews or additional selection methods. For that reason, make sure your application really stands out from the crowd, and leave us in no doubt as to why you should be joining BU.

For more information, take a look at our post graduate how to apply pages.

Full entry requirements

The normal requirements for embarking on this course are:

  • Possession of a 2:2 degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline, and/or relevant comprehensive professional experience
  • For post-experience and professional qualifications, there may be additional entry requirements set by the association or institute that ultimately administers the qualification in question. The qualification description on the course information pages should tell you what these are but please get in touch with the AskBU Enquiry Service if you are in doubt.

If you lack the formal academic qualifications needed to enter a postgraduate or post-experience degree, there are several alternative routes to follow - some based on experience. Contact the AskBU Enquiry Service for more information.

International entry requirements

If English is not your first language you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:

  • IELTS (Academic) 6.5 with minimum 5.5 in each component or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.


Upon completion of this course, you will possess the practical skills and theoretical knowledge necessary to continue into an academic career or employment in a wide range of organisations. The degree's emphasis on core practical skills and the variety of specialised area units you will be able to undertake will give you extra marketability in the professional arena, providing you with a route into a successful and rewarding career.

As an MSc Archaeology graduate, you will be prepared to undertake roles such as:

  • Archaeologist
  • Heritage manager
  • Historic buildings inspector/conservation officer
  • Museum education officer
  • Academic researcher.

Further study

If you want to continue your studies after achieving your Master's, you can look into our range of doctoral programmes.

No hidden extras

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

What you can expect from us

All of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of support and services, and you will receive more details about these if you are offered a place on the course.

  • One set of study-related consumables such as a memory stick
  • Materials for laboratory and field-based teaching activity
  • Support for placements (UK or abroad) and fieldwork
  • A range of student services – advisors, help desks, counsellors, placement support and careers service
  • The Library – access to a wide range of electronic resources (databases, e-journals and e-books), print and multimedia collections, subject librarians and study spaces
  • IT labs (some open 24/7), wireless network, AV equipment to borrow
  • Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme
  • Disability and additional learning support
  • The BU Language Centre to help you develop/improve foreign or English language skills
  • 24 hours a day, 365 days a year security team.

Costs of living and other expenses you need to consider

  • Accommodation and living costs: view our price guide
  • Text books: remember that our award-winning library is stocked with a large range of text books for all courses, as well as online resources such as industry journals, free of charge
  • General stationery and other supplies such as print and presentation materials: the Students’ Union shops stock a wide range of stationery supplies on both campuses
  • Travel to, from and between BU campuses: our bus service operates in the local areas offering a subsidised travel rate; we also have a large number of secure bike storage compounds
  • SportBU membership: check out our student membership packages, sports events, varsity teams, information about our new facilities and more on the SportBU pages.
  • Fieldwork travel, outdoor wear and footwear (where applicable)
  • Telephone and travel costs incurred when undertaking interviews for coursework/securing placements.
  • A fee will be payable towards the cost of an Educational Psychology Assessment if this is required in connection with additional learning support. BU pays for approximately two-thirds of the cost of this assessment for UK students. For more details and current pricing please visit the Students section of the website.

Repeat units

If you need to repeat one or more units during the course of your studies, you may be required to pay additional fees equivalent to one ninth of the tuition fee per 20 credit unit.

Financial help available from BU

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to students who are beginning their studies at BU. Our website also provides details on living costs, budgeting and paying your tuition fees.

Course changes

This table indicates any changes to the course content

Date Changes to this course Where the change was made Previous text

Option unit added: Applied Field Investigation

Course details content


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