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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.

Unique Aspects of the 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 an honours primary degree in archaeology or anthropology to 2.2 honours level or a Higher Diploma in Archaeology to 2.1 honours level.

You will have an honours primary degree in archaeology or anthropology to second honours level from a recognised university or third-level institution, or a higher diploma in archaeology to 2.1 honours level, and sit 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 combination of academic qualifications, relevant experience and expertise and interview performance.

If you are applying with Qualifications obtained outside Ireland and you wish to verify if you meet the minimum academic and English language requirements for this programme please see course webpage (link below) to view the grades comparison table by country and for details of recognised English language tests.


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, and three one-day excursions in the following months. There is also mandatory attendance on a five-week training excavation in May.

Careers or further progression

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.

Further enquiries

Programme co-ordinator:
Professor William O'Brien,
Professor of Archaeology
Phone: + 353 21 490 4045

Subjects taught

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.

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)

For further details on the course content and module descriptions, see the Postgraduate Academic Calendar.


Who Teaches This Course
Professor William O’Brien,
Nick Hogan

Assessment method

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 end of year.

Application date

Applications for 2017-18 intake are now open.

While UCC operates a rounds system for Postgraduate Taught courses (detailed below) we would advise you to apply as soon as possible.

Deadline for receipt of Applications: Offers will be made:

For all completed applications received by January 16th 2017 Offers will be made by January 30th 2017

For all completed applications received by March 1st 2017 Offers will be made by March 15th 2017

For all completed applications received by May 1st 2017 Offers will be made by May 15th 2017

For all completed applications received by July 3rd 2017 Offers will be made by July 17th 2017

Late applications may be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for any courses that have remaining capacity for places.

Non-EU Applicants:

Please visit the following page for further information for Non EU applicants

Course fee

Costs: 2017/2018 Irish/EU Fee: €6,300 full-time;

Enrolment and start dates

Next Intake: 11 September 2017

Remember to mention gradireland when contacting institutions!