V400 MA Palaeolithic Archaeology and Human Origins (1 yrs)

This course aims to examine the rich, global archaeological evidence for the study of our earliest origins, using Palaeolithic and Quaternary archives, and provides you with the basis for future research work.

Programme Overview

A Masters in Palaeolithic Archaeology and Human Origins is one of the most important, evolving archaeological disciplines you can study. By extrapolating information on where we have begun, we can determine as a species where we are going,  The history of the Homo sapien provides the foundation for scientific development in almost every field, including changes on how dietary concepts and disease treatment  is addressed. This programme offers a unique opportunity to study the material evidence of our evolutionary history.       

You will be trained in the practical analysis of Palaeolithic stone artefacts and encouraged to place this knowledge into a broad framework based on current interdisciplinary research. This will enable you to investigate the key questions in human evolution, including the development of technology and language; to understand the reasons why society evolved; and to participate in the long-running debate about the fate of the Neanderthals.

View the programme specification document for this course

To Apply

To apply for a postgraduate course please visit the How to Apply page or click on the apply button below.

Application process and required supporting documents

  • University online application including a personal statement
  • Transcript
  • 2 references
  • English language (if relevant)

If you have a question or would like further information, contact our admissions team:
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 8062

Programme Structure

This programme is divided into 180 credits. 105 credits are obtained from taught modules with the remaining 75 credits relating to the dissertation.

Key facts

  • Duration: 1 year (full time); 2 years (part time)

  • Start date: October

  • Funding: AHRC Block Grant; Humanities studentships may be available

  • Closing date: 1st September

  • Dissertation Length: 25,000 words

International students

The Southampton pre-Masters can be taken if you have qualifications or grades that do not meet University of Southampton direct entry criteria but meet the minimum entry criteria for the pre-Masters further details). You will be guaranteed a place on your chosen masters degree programme subject to successfully completing the pre-Masters. Visit our pre-Masters Programme to find out more about these degree programmes.

Useful downloads

Entry requirements

Typical entry requirements


First- or upper second-class honours degree or equivalent in Archaeology, Anthropology, or related subject.

English Language

IELTS 6.5, or equivalent in other approved English language test.

Selection process:

Intake: 8-15
Average applicants per place: 3

Academic entry requirements: First or upper second class honours degree, or equivalent in archaeology, anthropology, history or a cognate discipline.

English language entry requirements:   IELTS 6.5 overall, with minimum of 6.5 in reading and writing, 6.0 in listening and speaking, or equivalent.

Selection process: Online application

Interview may be required on a case by case basis to assess suitability of course

Visit our International Office website or the NARIC website for further information on qualifications.


Typical course content

Two core modules cover the analysis and interpretation of stone tools and the context of human origins covering the past two and half million years.

Opportunities are provided to master practical skills in making, describing and analysing stone artefacts. Teaching is through seminars and practicals, divided between two semesters, and assessment is continuous. A module in research study skills is also provided, and two option modules are taken from the flexible Humanities MA programme.

The dissertation is a key component of the MA allowing you to explore a topic in depth, apply your new analytical skills and make a contribution to research. The last four months of the course is devoted to this component.

Year 1

Please note that we cannot gaurantee certain courses (ARCH6121 and ARCH6117) will always be taught in the semester they are advertised in - this information should be used primarily as a guide.

Students may consider taking a 'free elective' - they shuold contact the MA Convenor if they wish to take a non-Archaeology option.

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Learning and teaching

A postgraduate degree from Humanities at Southampton offers you the wide and varied learning experience you should expect from a leading research university. We are committed to providing a relevant, modern and above all enjoyable experience which will ensure you graduate with the additional skills and understanding you need to start a career in any number of areas or to go on to further research.

How will you learn?

On a postgraduate taught programme teaching is led by academic staff, allowing you to engage with, and contribute to, the world-leading research carried out in Humanities at Southampton. You will complete a core programme of research skills development in tandem with a series of modules which you select according to your personal aims and objectives. Each programme offers a wide and fascinating range of modules related to our specialisms led by academics who are experts in their chosen fields of research and who wish to engage you with their experience. 

You will develop your understanding through staff-led lectures, student-led seminars, practicals, as well as field trips and museum visits. Fieldtrips will help fix the ‘real-life' experiences of what is learnt in the classroom, through writing field guides for six sites visited. You should find yourself challenged intellectually and exposed to new ideas, approaches and perspectives.

A large part of postgraduate study is independent learning. Programmes will develop your critical awareness, encouraging you to reflect on the methodologies employed in further study and to apply these to the reading and research you undertake as part of your degree.


Feedback is given on presentations and essays which all emphasise critical thinking. Your progress and achievement will be tracked within modules and between semesters by a process of returned marks and feedback. We aim to provide a supportive environment that fosters constructive criticism.  The 25,000 word dissertation, that should be written over the summer, is a core element in establishing the acquisition of appropriate skills and the application of research techniques. Your supervisiors will be available to provide regular and supportive advice, guidance and feedback on your progress.

Professional development

A masters degree will enable you to further develop the key skills employers seek such as: time management; problem solving; team work; deadline and project management; cultural awareness; working independently; using your initiative; relationship-building; critical thinking and research analysis. Above all, you will learn to communicate your ideas and enthusiasm to a wide range of audiences.

Career Opportunities