MA Material Culture Studies
Programme Director Dr Roger Doonan
Other core teaching staff;
Material culture lies at the heart of the discipline of archaeology. Material culture is the product of human creativity. It is one of the means through which people engaged within each other and with the social and natural worlds in which they lived – it was integral to their creation as individuals and as communities. It also survives to us in the present – and is the principle means through which we access their past and reconstruct their lifeways, beliefs and behaviour. Our MA in Material Culture Studies provides you with the knowledge and skills needed to carry out investigations of the material dimensions of human social and cultural life. We place a very strong emphasis on the `materiality´ of materials – on finding out what things were made from, on reconstructing the technological and social processes involved in their making, on understanding the implications of their materiality for the worlds in which they operated. The programme is designed to appeal to all those who want to further their understanding and appreciation of the material evidence that is so central to the archaeological endeavour. We have designed specific `pathways´ for those who wish to use the programme as a platform for advanced independent research at doctoral level (Research Track), and for those who wish to use it as training for a future career in archaeology (in museums or archaeological field units, for example) and/or to enhance their existing skills-base (Vocational Track).
The programme offers a range of closely integrated core modules which enable you to develop your experience and understanding of the method and theory of material culture studies. Our focus ranges from earliest prehistory through to the material culture of the present day. Students with interests in specific periods or regions may also specialise in the analysis of ceramics, glass or metals. You will learn to think critically and we will train you in a range of problem solving and analytical skills. There is a strong emphasis on developing your skills and knowledge `in practice´ – we encourage a `hands-on´ approach.
Four core modules provide you with a theoretical and practical introduction to the discipline:
Introduction to Material Culture Studies [15 credits] Offers a critical examination of past and present trends in material culture research; introduces key concepts and outlines the means archaeologists use to investigate the diverse forms of material information they regularly encounter.
Archaeology and Ethnography of Production and Consumption [15 credits] Drawing on case studies of a range of materials for basketry to pottery, this module provides a thorough appraisal of the potential of ethnographic and archaeological theory and practice to enhance our understanding of material-aspects of production and consumption.
Practical Approaches to Material Culture [15 credits] Provides a broad understanding of ceramic, glass or metal technologies and the basic steps involved in their manufacture, and includes training in laboratory-based experimentation and replication of archaeological objects.
Assemblage Study [15 credits] Delivers `hands-on´ experience in applying the practical and theoretical skills necessary to investigate, interpret and communicate the results of material culture research. This module involves the in-depth analysis of a coherent material culture assemblage.
You then choose optional modules worth a total of 60 credits. Availability varies from year to year but the following gives a flavour of the kind of specialised modules we will offer;
- Archaeological Practice
- Ethnohistory and Anthropology of Modern Hunter Gatherers
- From the Age of Migrations to the Age of Discovery
- Funerary Archaeology
- Greeks, Romans and ‘Others’ in the Ancient World
- Iron Age Europe
- Palaeolithic Art
- Death and Burial in Anglo-Saxon England
- Material Life and Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern World
- The Archaeology of Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain
- Roman Italy and its Hinterland
- The Archaeology of Classical Athens
- Viking-Age Europe
If you are on the Research Track you finish your programme with a 60 credit dissertation on a subject of your choice. You can use this as a platform for the further study of topics/issues in your doctoral research, or simply to advance your knowledge and understanding of a key topic in archaeology.
If you are on the Vocational Track you undertake a 60 credit work placement of approximately eight weeks duration. This is designed to allow you to work alongside practitioners `in the field´, as well as to get consolidated hands-on experience in a subject/technique of particular interest to you. Placements can be in a commercial, curatorial or academic environment, but must have a specific material culture emphasis.
A good degree (Minimum UK 2:1, US GPA 3.0) in a relevant arts or humanities subject.
For applicants whose first language is not English, IELTS is the preferred test of language. You need an IELTS score of 6.5, with at least 5.5 in all the component tests. If you are unable to sit IELTS, you should take TOEFL. You need iBT 100, with a minimum component score of 23.