MSc in Archaeological Science:  Technology and Materials


Co-ordinator: Marcos Martinón-Torres
Other Major Contributors: Mike CharltonIan Freestone; Bill Sillar; Ulrike Sommer; John Merkel; Patrick Quinn

The application of scientific techniques to the study of archaeological remains is an increasingly important dimension of archaeological research. Using suitable analytical methods, it is possible to uncover patterns associated with the selection and provenance of raw materials, the manufacturing processes behind archaeological objects, the technical knowledge of past craftspeople, the direction and tempo of past trading patterns and/or the persistence of particular cultural traditions. Scientific information often allows degrees of resolution that cannot be obtained through simpler stylistic comparisons or historical research.

This MSc programme aims to bridge the gap between archaeology and science by integrating both a detailed training in the use of scientific techniques for the analysis of inorganic archaeological materials and a solid background in the anthropology of technology. By the end of the degree, students should have a good understanding of the foundations of the most established analytical techniques, practical experience in their application and data processing, as well as the ability to design research projects that employ instrumental analyses to address archaeological questions.

Teaching and research include the use of thin-section petrography, metallography, optical and electron microscopy and microanalysis (SEM/EDS and WD/EPMA) and bulk chemical analysis (XRF and ICP), and their application to the study ceramics, glass, stone, metals and metallurgical debris. In addition, we introduce and discuss strategies for data processing and interpretation, as well as relevant archaeological theory, using archaeological and ethnographic examples from across the world.

The degree is typically a full-time, one-year programme (commencing in September) although it is also available on a part-time basis. It is designed for graduates in archaeology with an interest in scientific methods. It is also suitable for conservators and others concerned with archaeological collections, and for science graduates who have, or are willing to acquire, a good understanding of archaeology.

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