Archaeology - Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture

MSc Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture
Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 90)

The MSc in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture will provide a comprehensive course of university learning and experience in experimental archaeology and material culture analysis.

• Experimental archaeology can be defined as the reconstruction of past buildings, technologies, things and environmental contexts so as to enable a better understanding of the character and role of materiality and material culture in peoples lives.

• It may also involve innovative, experiential interrogations of past lifeways and material culture, so as to explore and understand how people interact with each other and the world.

Course Description
MSc in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture

Programme co-ordinator: Dr Brendan O'Neill


The UCD MSc in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture is based in UCD School of Archaeology's Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture and is designed, taught and assessed in its unique field facilities, laboratories and workshops.

In trimester 1, the programme is about teaching you to be thoughtful and reflective about how archaeologists might use different theoretical and practical approaches to investigating people, buildings and things in the past. The module Experimental Archaeology: Making, Understanding, Storytelling investigates how we think about past houses, buildings, agricultural and industrial technologies, pottery, lithics, metalworking, food and cooking, and other aspects of material culture, through projects and case studies. Material Cultureis an essential module for any archaeologist, and investigates how we observe, describe and analyse artefacts, using the principles of object biography, chaine operatoire, but especially scientific analytical methods, artefact photography, illustration, etc - vital skills for any archaeologist wishing to engage with "things" in their career. You then can further choose various 3rdyear or MSc level module options – such as Heritage presentation and interpretation; Combat archaeology, or Early Medieval Ireland and Beyond, AD 400-1100.

In trimester 2, we will develop your practical and analytical skills for investigating landscapes, buildings and things. Practical Experimental Archaeologytakes a workshop and making approach, building an understanding of how people understood materials, modified them, used them to make, use and discard things: in the past, this has been done through everyone casting medieval bronze brooches using their own clay crucibles and clay moulds. Archaeological Field Techniquesintroduces students to field survey, the analysis of landscapes and buildings, their recording through survey instruments, etc, and may also involve some recording of archaeological features. Research Project Skillsteaches you how to design a project, ask research questions, devise methodologies, analyse data and interpret it in the context of wider archaeological knowledge. It provides a basis for how students learn to do an original MSc thesis. You can then choose such options as Heritage Marketing and Management, Remote Sensingmodule, or an exciting new module 'Decolonising Ethnography'linked to architecture, folklore, anthropology, sociology, and archaeology. There is also the option of taking such 3rd year modules as Archaeology of Food, Environmental Archaeology in Practice,and Introduction to Human Bioarchaeology. The programme is taught through a diversity of teaching methods and innovative assessment types, by experienced professionals and gives you the opportunity to really develop your knowledge and skills in archaeological investigations, in a creative, inspiring and enjoyable setting.

In trimester 3, you do your own MSc thesis on a topic of your own choice, supervised by a member of UCD School of Archaeology staff. The choice of topic is wide, both in terms of chronology (prehistory, medieval, modern) and geography (e.g. America, Mediterranean, NW Europe, etc)!

Programme Website:

Website for UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture

Facebook UCD Experimental Archaeology Group

Twitter account

Instagram account

Subjects taught

Study in an exciting, new multidisciplinary programme, with lectures by UCD staff and international experts, with practical training in laboratories and the Centre for Experimental Archaeology, and fieldtrips.

Explore and investigate though lectures, seminars, and practical project learning how people in the past understood and worked with stone, flint, clay, pottery, wood, leather, woolen and vegetal textiles, and other materials, and how they constructed and inhabited buildings developed different technologies, and made and used things.

Gain key professional skills in object and materials analyses, including the use of artefact photography, 3D laser scanning, photogrammetric modeling and visualization technologies, and GIS, and the use of optical microscopes and Scanning Electron Microscopes. Through the MSc programme you will have access to training in Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDX), X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray Diffraction, thus gaining insights into how we investigate past material culture through detailed elemental analysis.

Design, implement and analyse the results of their own project, which may be completed as an MA thesis or MA Research Placement in semester 3 (i.e. in the summer term).

Entry requirements

Minimum Academic Criteria
A Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelors in Archaeology/Anthropology or a cognate area with a minimum 2.1 or an equivalent of a UCD GPA of 3.2. (NFQ Level 8 ) or equivalent. Candidates from cognate disciplines (e.g. History, Classics, Art History, Geography, etc) will have demonstrated previous experience and/or awareness of Archaeological or Experimental Archaeological methods and thought, by attending during their primary degree a number of Archaeology modules and/or working for a period on an Archaeological Excavation and/or working in a Museum, or Open-Air Museum. Previous academic education and/or experience in aspects of Crafts and/or Material Culture Studies will also be considered by the School. The School would reserve the right to assessing the extent and quality of such previous studies and experience. Applicants are required to submit original academic transcripts.

Additional Essential Criteria
A statement outlining the applicant's previous experience in Archaeology,, and/or cognate disciplines and the reasons for pursuing the degree, and the reasons why UCD is being chosen. Every applicant should complete this part of the application which should be approximately 300-500 words. Applicants whose first language is not English are also required to submit evidence of their English Language proficiency. It is expected that applicants will normally have reached on overall 7.0 in IELTS or equivalent. Foreign Language documentation must be accompanied by an official translation. If applicants are unable to provide final transcripts or any other required documentation by the closing date, they should contact the School directly by e-mail prior to this date.

For non UCD students and for UCD students who have not yet completed their Undergraduate degree, TWO references must accompany your application: one MUST be academic from the institution where your primary degree was awarded; the second reference can either be academic or from a professional employer in archaeology or from a cognate profession.

Please forward, or have your referees forward, a hard copy of a reference on your behalf to:

c/o Martin Hurley
Online Applications,
UCD Registry
Tierney Buildling
Dublin 4

Your references should be provided as a signed, original letter, on headed institutional notepaper, with your application reference numbers clearly stated.

Here is a link to the Online Applications website:

NOTE: if your primary degree was previously awarded by UCD, we request that a current CV is submitted with application and the Personal statement be completed.

These are the minimum entry requirements – additional criteria may be requested for some programmes

Non-EU Students
Please note that all non-EU students should check their visa requirements when applying to a programme and certainly before accepting a place on a course. Also note that visa restrictions limit some overseas students (e.g. Americans) to full time programmes only.

Application dates

he following entry routes are available:

MSc in Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture FT (W349)


MSc in Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture PT (W350)


* Courses will remain open until such time as all places have been filled, therefore early application is advised

Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

Part Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. No


1 year full-time, 2 years part-time.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Part time

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    Course provider