Institute of Archaeology


Programme Structure for MSc Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology

The MSc Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology provides students with training in the biological and archaeological aspects of human evolutionary studies.

Degree Co-ordinator: Matt Pope  

The Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology MSc, run jointly by the Institute of Archaeology and UCL Anthropology, brings together the expertise of the two departments to provide graduate students with an integrated training in the biological and archaeological aspects of human evolutionary studies.

Students gain training in research methods and a scientific grounding in the principles, content and practice of palaeoanthropology and palaeolithic archaeology, including: fossil and archaeological evidence of human evolution; temporal and spatial patterns and processes of evolutionary and environmental change; and the evolutionary background for understanding human adaptation and culture.

Degree Handbook


Students are required to take a core module and four options. They are also required to write a dissertation which is the result of an individual research project undertaken during the degree. A topic should be selected in consultation with staff, and students will be assigned a primary and secondary supervisor to guide the main stages of the work. The degree programme lasts for twelve months (starting in late September), although it is also possible to take it part-time over two years. Most of the structured teaching takes place in the autumn and spring terms, the summer being devoted to work on the dissertation. MSc students regularly attend weekly seminars by guest speakers in the two participating departments, as well as other special lectures held at UCL or nearby institutions. In addition, research groups have been formed around several of the key topics that form part of the programme. These provide opportunities for MSc student participation, and can be especially helpful for dissertation research.

Core Module

All students must take the following:

The course provides an essential background on issues relating to the analysis and interpretation of the fossil and archaeological records. Topics will include:

  • the interpretive history of palaeoanthropology and palaeolithic archaeology;
  • aspects of primate behaviour, adaptation and evolution;
  • recent hunter-gatherer lifeways and the use of ethnoarchaeology and experimental archaeology;
  • environmental history, faunal communities and palaeoecology;
  • taphonomy and site formation processes;
  • the human fossil record, and the role of genetic evidence;
  • evolution of human behaviour and life history;lithic technology, subsistence strategies and cognitive evolution;
  • case studies drawn from various time periods ranging from the earliest archaeological record in Africa to the colonization of Australasia and the Americas.

It will be taught through weekly lectures and seminars during the autumn and spring terms.

Option Modules

Students will be encouraged to select options from the following list up to the value of 60 credits. Alternatively, they may choose from the wider range of Masters modules options available at the UCL Institute of Archaeology or the Department of Anthropology:

Please note not all modules are available every year.


(90 credits) - All students are asked to write a dissertation of 15,000 words on a suitable research topic, with guidance from a primary and secondary supervisor. The research interests of the staff involved in teaching the degree are indicated in the section below and topics may be selected in those areas, or others related to the course.

Facilities and Staff

The Institute of Archaeology and Department of Anthropology provide a very stimulating environment for postgraduate study. In combination, they have over 100 academic staff and 450 Masters and Doctoral students coming from over 40 countries. Each department has excellent library and laboratory facilities and the resources of the British Library, British Museum and Natural History Museum are nearby.

The teaching staff for this degree bring together a range and depth of expertise that is arguably unparalleled at other institutions. The main staff involved in the MSc degree are listed below with links to their webpages. Each of the staff are involved in field projects and there may be opportunities for involvement in these.

  • Matthew Pope (Archaelogy) Human evolution, Neanderthal culture, Palaeolithic record of northern Europe, site formation processes, fieldwork methodology
  • Ceri Shipton (Archaeology) Evolution of cognition and sociality in Early Homo, Lithic technology, dispersal of modern humans out of Africa. Field projects in East Africa, Arabia, India, South-East Asia and Australia
  • Aida Gomez-Robles (Anthropology) Cranio-dental and brain variation in fossil hominins and living primates
  • Christophe Soligo (Anthropology) has research interests that include the adaptive origin of primate radiations, evolutionary anatomy and palaeoecology

Associated Staff