Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture

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

• 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.

Who should apply?
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

Course Description
MSc in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture

Programme co-ordinator: Dr Brendan O’Neill

Contact: Brendan.oneill@ucd.ie

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: http://www.ucd.ie/archaeology/study/graduateprogrammes/msc_experimental/

Website for UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture


Facebook UCD Experimental Archaeology Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/UCDExperimentalArchaeology/?multi_permalinks=1362055387222582&notif_t=like&notif_id=1491996513462984

Twitter accounthttps://twitter.com/EArchaeol

Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/ucd_experimental_archaeology/

This programme will provide you with an introductory course to experimental archaeology and material culture, through Distance Learning/Online teaching means. Students of the Graduate Certificate (by Distance Learning) in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture will:

• Study in an exciting multidisciplinary programme, with online lectures by UCD staff and international experts, with full use of a wide range of online materials, including lectures, podcasts, videos and blog posts, and an optional (but not obligatory) one-week intensive practical course at UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (CEAMC).

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

Subjects taught

• ARCH41180 Experimental Archaeology: Making, Understanding, Storytelling (10 credits) explores how we think about past houses, buildings, agricultural and industrial technologies, pottery, lithics, metalworking, food and cooking, and other aspects of material culture, through a review of projects and best-practice case studies. Experimental Archaeology can be defined as the reconstruction of past buildings, practices, technologies, and things, based on archaeological evidence, and their investigation through testing, recording, and experience, so as to create a better understanding of people and their material culture in the past. In this module, we will explore through project case studies, the nature of experimental archaeology, and outline its key principles and achievement. We will discuss how experimental archaeology projects can investigate how prehistoric and medieval houses were built, used, and abandoned; how people produced, processed and prepared food and drink; how people used different raw materials, tacit knowledge and embodied skills and technologies to make things, such as pottery, iron tools, non-ferrous metals, organics and textiles. We will also explore the relationships and changing boundaries between experimental archaeology, experiential archaeology, living history, and re-enactment, and explore how these all can help us to practically re-create things from the past, understand the past and the archaeological record, and to tell stories about them. This module will be taught through seminars, lectures, and practical tasks) and Online/Distance Learning resources.

• ARCH41170: Material Culture (10 credits) is an essential module for anybody interested in “things”, and investigates how we observe, describe and analyse things, using the principles of object biography, chaine operatoire (sequence of making from raw materials to finished things), but also both practical and scientific analytical methods, artefact photography, illustration, etc - vital skills for anybody wishing to engage with "things” in their career. This module will provide students with an in-depth introduction to the identification, analysis, and interpretation of archaeological material culture (i.e. objects produced and used by past peoples). While standard approaches to object analysis and interpretation have tended to emphasise their finished form or aesthetic characteristics, this module will add to this by examining the evidence for production, making and use. By incorporating these elements, a more holistic understanding of material culture can be gained, allowing us to better research and understand how and why these objects came to be made / used. The overall objective in this module will be for you to learn how researchers have sought to describe, analyse and think about some of the more common archaeological artefact types. You will be introduced to specific terminologies, methods for data capture and some of the more common analytical techniques used by specialists and researchers, including microscopy, lipid analysis, archaeometallurgy, spectroscopy and 3D modelling. A key focus of this module will be assessing various approaches taken by researchers to answer specific research questions and their application of analytical techniques. Teaching using online lectures, videos, images, technical graphics, and practical demonstrations by archaeologists.

• ARCH4XXX: Ancient Crafts, Traditional Practices and Storytelling Today (10 credits) Experimental archaeology investigates how people in the past built and occupied houses, managed and interacted with their landscapes, made objects using sophisticated knowledge of materials and how natural processes have impacted archaeological remains. It also enables us to reflect on past materialities through practical engagement with ancient technologies, which provides us embodied experiences of raw materials, processes and technologies not normally used today. For archaeologists interested in material culture, this module allows us to directly explore how archaeology truly is the “discipline of things”. This module introduces you to the practical aspects of experimental archaeology and ancient technologies. Students may wish, though this is not obligatory, to attend an intensive, enjoyable and reflective week of practical experimental archaeological tasks at our UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (CEAMC) facility and its workshops, pottery kilns and furnace rooms, OR if you wish for financial or time commitment reasons not to travel to CEAMC in Ireland, you will instead design and complete a series of specific practical tasks investigating aspects of past crafts and technologies, as agreed with you by the programme archaeologists, and carried out by you in your own home place. You will make something. You will participate in the class in reflecting on a range of practical experiments on houses, stone/flint, pottery, organics, food & cooking, amongst other potential topics. The module will be primarily assessed by means of 1) a Reflective Learning Journal and 2) a Portfolio, whereby you produce Blog Post(s), Podcast(s), or a YouTube/Vimeo video telling stories about your preferred craft or technology. Seminars held online during term will help you design, carry out, and report on your project.

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.

time programmes only.

Please submit, or have your referees submit, a copy of a reference on your behalf via the Student Desk connector or email it to documentverification@ucd.ie

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

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

The following entry routes are available:

MSc in Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture FT (W349)
Duration 1 Years
Attend Full Time
Deadline Rolling*

MSc in Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture PT (W350)
Duration 2 Years
Attend Part Time
Deadline Rolling*

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


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

Enrolment dates

Next Intake: 2024/2025 September.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Part time

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