Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture

GradCert Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture
Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 30)

UCD School of Archaeology’s Graduate Certificate in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (Online/Distance Learning) would build on the strengths of the existing taught programmes in UG/PGT in experimental archaeology and material culture, and the international reputation of UCD School of Archaeology’s Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (CEAMC). The Graduate Certificate in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (Online/Distance Learning) is a part-time, online, distance learning course designed to equip students with current thinking and professional understanding of experimental archaeological investigations of past societies. The programme will provide you with the knowledge base, skills and confidence to further develop their career in this field, and to build potential for further graduate studies, research and teaching. It is:

The only Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture Distance Learning course in the world, offering a multidisciplinary programme of teaching and learning with modules in theoretical and practical approaches to experimental archaeology and material culture

Designed for practitioners, museum professionals and motivated participants working in the areas of experimental archaeology, living history, re-enactment, crafts and ancient technologies, primitive technology, museums, archaeological open air museums, and also professional archaeologists (to be accredited as a CPD)

A part-time, online, distance learning course with an international focus on experimental archaeology and material culture.

It will provide an introduction to university learning in experimental archaeology and material culture analysis for participants unable or unwilling, for any reason, to attend our campus programmes, particularly international and national adult learners, whose commitments to families or careers prevent them from travelling to, and residing in Ireland for one year.

It will also be the basis of a CPD course for professional archaeologists in Ireland and beyond. UCD School of Archaeology staff associated with CEAMC have been asked many times by international practitioners over the last 5 years if it was possible to study experimental archaeology with us in UCD School of Archaeology by Distance Learning, this is the answer to that question.

Who should apply?

Part Time option suitable for:

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

Course Description
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

- Entry to the Graduate Certificate in Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (online) will typically be based on an honours university degree (GPA 2.7, NFQ Level 8, or the international equivalent). The course is designed to accommodate applicants with a wide variety of academic qualifications including Archaeology, History, Architecture, Social Sciences, Classics, Geography, Biology, Arts, Fine Art, Agriculture, Engineering, Environmental Science and Economics, Design and Art.

- You may instead have equivalent work experience in the area of traditional crafts, museum studies or heritage communication. Applicants with such experience in traditional crafts, technologies, living history, re-enactment and heritage presentation and related fields are welcome to apply (please discuss with programme coordinator by email to aidan.osullivan@ucd.ie).

- We intend to welcome a diverse group of participants with a wide range of experience in different areas of crafts, making and heritage, to provide for a dynamic forum for discussion and interaction.

- If English is not your native language, proof of proficiency in English will be required, unless you took your primary degree through English. The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL Internet Based Test is 90, on the IELTS system it is 6.5.

Application dates

Grad Cert Experimental Archaeology & Material Culture PT (W499)
Duration 1 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 part-time online.

Enrolment dates

Next Intake: 2024/2025 September.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Minor Certificate (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Part time

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    Course provider