Archaeology - Archaeological Excavation

The MA in Archaeological Excavation is a one-year taught course, offered on a full-time basis by the Department of Archaeology. Excavation is central to the practice of archaeology as an academic and professional discipline, with many employment opportunities in Ireland and abroad. This course will provide advanced training in the theory and practice of excavation, and specifically:
• develop a critical understanding of the role of excavation in world archaeology, with particular reference to professional practice in Ireland
• teach research and organisational skills appropriate to the design and execution of archaeological excavation projects to a high standard
• combine academic knowledge and technical training in different areas of current practice, including pre-excavation survey, excavation strategy and methods, and post-excavation analysis.

The course will provide a strong foundation for students who wish to develop a professional career in archaeological excavation, or find employment in areas where a critical understanding of excavation is essential.

The MA is designed to achieve a desirable balance between classroom teaching and field training, covering both academic and technical areas of archaeological excavation. The course includes five taught modules, a four-week training excavation and the submission of a research dissertation.

Why Choose This Course
This is the only English-language, taught master's course in Europe that offers dedicated training in archaeological excavation. The course addresses a significant demand for archaeologists to work in the commercial excavation sector.

Entry requirements

You will have honours primary degree in archaeology or anthropology to second honours level from a recognized university or third-level institution, or a higher diploma in archaeology to 2H1 honours level, and set a formal interview to establish motivation, work experience and relevant expertise.

The Additional/Supplementary Statement Questions MUST also be completed during the online application.

References are required from applicants who have not graduated from UCC in the last two years. Please supply two letters of reference, one of which should be a previous employer or supervisor of studies. Sealed letters of references should be sent directly to the Course Director: Professor William O'Brien, Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.

Places to be offered based on a combination of academic qualifications, relevant experience and expertise and interview performance.

English Language Requirements
Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university approved English language requirements available at

International/non-EU applicants
For full details of the non-EU application procedure please visit our how to apply pages for international students. In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.

Not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above.

For more information please contact the International Office.

Assessment Info

The taught courses are examined by continuous assessment, with a combination of essays, projects, class presentations and fieldwork exercises. The training excavation is assessed by project work, while a research dissertation must be submitted at the end of the year.

Subjects taught

Modules (90 credits):
• AR6004 Excavation Planning and Research Design (5 credits)
• AR6005 Excavation Strategy and Practice (5 credits)
• AR6006 Post-excavation Analysis and Interpretation (5 credits)
• AR6007 Case-studies in Archaeological Excavation (10 credits)
• AR6013 Archaeological Survey and Remote Sensing (5 credits)
• AR6008 Training Excavation (15 credits)
• AR6001 Dissertation (45 credits)


1 year full-time.
Lectures take place over six months (October to March), with an average of six hours per week. You will attend additional computer lab practicals in October and November, a two-day field survey exercise in October, as well as a number of one-day excursions in the following months. There is also mandatory attendance on a one-week training excavation in April and a five-week training excavation in May.

Enrolment dates

Start Date: September 2021

Post Course Info

Skills and Careers Information
On completion of this course, you will be able to:
• Apply for excavation licences in Ireland
• Carry out historical research & cartographic analysis in advance of archaeological excavation
• Survey archaeological sites in advance of excavation, including both surface mapping & geophysical prospection
• Identify & organise the resources required to conduct an archaeological excavation
• Design excavation strategies appropriate to different types of archaeological site & different excavation circumstance
• Develop the basic skills required to carry out an archaeological excavation
• Work effectively as part of an excavation team, & acquire management skills
• Identify & assess the range of research carried out at the post-excavation stage
• Write preliminary & final excavation reports, as well as related specialist reports
• Acquire specialist skills in computing & information technology relevant to archaeological excavation
• Compile excavation archives
• Communicate the results of archaeological excavation to a specialist & non-specialist audience
• Design & implement conservation works connected to public presentation & long-term preservation of archaeological sites
• Transfer a range of critical learning & writing skills, as well as IT training & practical experience, to other employment areas.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time

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