Universiteit Leiden

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Archaeological Science (MSc)

About the programme

Dive into the heart of archaeological science: explore the flora and fauna of bygone ages, study human bones and teeth, analyse the cultural biographies of material objects, or become an expert in the use of digital data in archaeological research.

Programme overview

Regardless of the Career Profile you choose, you will follow a general course in scientific methodology. Each Career Profile consists of two lecture series, supplemented with lectures by guest speakers, including international speakers, and laboratory work. You will also choose a Region Focus Area, either centered on a region or a period, supplementing your main Archaeological Science focus. Finally, there is room for fieldwork, and elective courses. 

A large part of the programme is intended for writing the thesis. In this thesis, the results of practical investigations are presented, combined with literature studies. 

Career Profiles

Archaeobotany and archaeozoology focuses on a variety of palaeo-zoological and palaeo-botanical topics (including aDNA and isotopes), ranging in age from the Palaeolithic to historical periods. The programme revolves around palaeo-environmental or palaeo-economical questions as well as evolutionary aspects of faunal or floral communities, and the evolution of species.

Topics discussed in this focus area include: stable isotope analysis, biomechanical analyses, paleodemography, metric and non-metric variation, estimation of sex and age, taphonomic changes, infectious disease, non-specific stress indicators, and the osteological paradox. Students are encouraged to formulate a research question that is novel, reproducible, and of interest to the wider osteoarchaeological community.

The Faculty of Archaeology houses several skeletal collections, which may be available for student research. In addition to a well-grounded education in archaeology, students that complete this track will have an advanced knowledge of the human body, experience conducting research, and honed scientific writing expertise. These skills will prepare students to continue their osteoarchaeological research efforts or pursue other career opportunities.

Please note: if you want to start in February, and you aim to graduate in a year, your thesis subject options are limited.

This focus area deals with current approaches in material culture theory, analytical methods and the techniques used to study artefacts and in experimental archaeology. Experiments are key to both our research and teaching. These are conducted in an experimental laboratory, as well as in an experimental outdoor location called Huize Horsterwold. The latter is a Stone Age hamlet we have constructed these past few years and which we use as an experimental station.

In the focus area Digital Archaeology you will be able to acquire in-depth knowledge about digital data in archaeology: how they are generated, collected and processed, what they represent, how they can be managed, visualised, analysed, interpreted and presented using state-of-the-art tools. You will also reflect on the nature and future of Digital Archaeology, focussing on how digital data and computational tools affect the way we undertake research and the results we achieve.

Your thesis will have a methodological focus, or at least a strong methodological component, in one of the sub-fields of Digital Archaeology (surveying and geophysics; remote sensing and image analysis; spatial analysis; 3D modelling; modelling and simulation; data management). The topic may be embedded in a larger research context, combining it for example with the topic of your second focus area.

Educational methods

Tests are taken in the form of written examinations, presentations, assignments or papers. For each subject you pass you will be awarded a number of credits. One credit (ec) stands for 28 hours of study. One year of fulltime study equals 60 credits.

Instruction consists of lectures, seminars and tutorials. In the lecture the lecturer talks about his or her field. You prepare by studying articles and books at home.

However, most of the teaching in the master programme consists of seminars and tutorials, where you examine the material in more depth and discuss it with your fellow students and the lecturer.

You also carry out assignments, give presentations and write papers. An active contribution to the meetings is highly appreciated.

You are required to spend about 40 hours per week on your studies. These study activities include: lectures/seminars, practical sessions, tutorials, fieldwork, excursions (e.g. to a museum or excavation), exams, literature study, preparing presentations, and writing papers and reports.

Programme structure

See for a detailed programme outline the programme structure webpage.

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