About this course
Explore the evolution, biology and behaviour of humankind through the study of our Stone Age ancestors. With this specialist master’s in palaeoanthropology you’ll gain expertise in the analysis of stone tools and hominin skulls to understand our evolutionary journey. You’ll work closely with experts in our Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) and benefit from opportunities to apply your learning in real-world settings.
We’re ranked Top 30 in the world for archaeology (QS World University Rankings, 2019).
Your specialist palaeoanthropology learning will cover:
- handling and interpreting stone tools
- the role of evolutionary models, experimental testing, primatological data and ethnographies in the study of human origins
- developing methods to interrogate meaning from collections of stone tools
- using SPSS statistical analysis software
- Palaeolithic symbolism and language, migration and responses to environmental change
Beyond your specialist modules you can personalise this palaeonthropology MSc to your areas of interest.
We bring expertise together from across the University, including Medicine, Humanities, the National Oceanography Centre, Engineering and Winchester School of Art, to help you gain both scientific skills and cultural understanding through a range of optional modules.
This is a very practical degree, but you don’t need prior knowledge of biology or anthropology. You’ll be based in our dedicated John Wymer Laboratory, with its own specialist library and large collection of stone tools and hominin skulls. Staff, PhD students and MSc students work in the same space, creating a lively learning environment. As a student on this course you automatically become a member of the CAHO research group.
You’ll have the opportunity to apply your skills on a 4-week placement, where you’ll gain valuable real-world experience of the archaeology sector and heritage industry. Previous placements have included Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and The Nautical Archaeology Society.
This Palaeoanthropology course offers a balance between vocational and research skills. During your dissertation you’ll be able to embed with one of our research groups to do original research on a topic of that you choose. There is the possibility that this work will be published.
Southampton is close to the World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Avebury and we have research projects engaged with both sites, as well as a range of other archaeological projects across the Globe.
If you’d prefer a less specialised archaeology master’s degree, or you’d like to focus on a different specialism, you can choose from our 3 other Archaeology MSc pathways. When you join us you’ll have 2 weeks in which you can change pathway if you wish.
If you prefer, you can apply to study this course as:
- a part-time master's - study the same course content over 2 or more years
Your modules and fees may vary if you choose a different study option.
Dr John McNabb is a Senior Lecturer in Palaeolithic Archaeology. He has collaborated on publications and studies on British Lower Palaeolithic sites.
His core research expertise includes:
- interpreting the behaviour of ancient human ancestors, based on the analysis of ancient material culture, primarily stone tools, or on site based contextual data
- historical research on the development of human origins as an intellectual question in Victorian and Edwardian society
Since joining us at Southampton he's worked on a number of projects, completed his African research, and developed new interests in the history of Human Origins research. For more information view Dr John McNabb's staff profile
Your other Archaeology MSc pathway options are:
- Archaeology - personalise your study of archaeology and build real-world skills through a heritage or archaeological placement with this QS top 30 Archaeology Master’s.
- Archaeology Bioarchaeology - gain specialist skills in human anatomy and faunal analysis to make sense of the past. Benefit from dedicated archaeology laboratories and specialist research.
- Archaeology Higher Archaeological Practice - discover our archaeological practice master's degree at the University of Southampton. Learn how to get a job in archaeology and commercial archaeology.
This course is based at Avenue.
This qualification is awarded by the University of Southampton.
Download the Course Description Document
The Course Description Document details your course overview, your course structure and how your course is taught and assessed.
Changes due to COVID-19
Although the COVID-19 situation is improving, any future restrictions could mean we might have to change the way parts of our teaching and learning take place in 2021 to 2022. We're working hard to plan for a number of possible scenarios. This means that some of the information on this course page may be subject to change.
Find out more on our COVID advice page.
You’ll need the minimum of a 2:1 degree in archaeology, anthropology, geography, biology, history or a related subject.
Find the equivalent international qualifications for your country.
English language requirements
If English isn't your first language, you'll need to complete an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to demonstrate your competence in English. You'll need all of the following scores as a minimum:
IELTS score requirements
- overall score
We accept other English language tests. Find out which English language tests we accept.
Recognition of professional experience
If you’ve been away from formal study for some time we’ll assess your relevant professional experience, your subject knowledge and your aptitude for learning.
Your application will be considered on individual merit and you may be asked to attend an interview.
Got a question?
Please contact us if you're not sure you have the right experience or qualifications to get onto this course.
Tel: +44(0)23 8059 5000
Your studies will run for a full year, from September to the following September.
If you’d like to take longer to complete this master’s you can study part-time over 2 to 5 years.
If you decide that you’d like to change to a different archaeology specialism within the first 2 weeks of term you’ll be able to change your degree.
Throughout your studies we’ll encourage you to engage with the wider research community through attending and presenting at seminars, workshops or conferences. In the summer you’ll focus on your personal research project, which you’ll complete with guidance from a personal supervisor.
What you'll study:
- You'll take 2 compulsory modules that focus on specialist palaeolithic knowledge and skills.
- alongside your compulsory specialist modules you can choose modules from the full range of available archaeology modules. You can also:
- include up to 30 credits from final-year undergraduate archaeology modules
- choose to study a module from another University department, subject to the approval of the course leader
Each module requires at least 150 hours of study time. As a full-time student you’re likely to be on campus up to 4 days a week.
Want more detail? See all the modules in the course.
Changes due to COVID-19
Find out more on our COVID advice page.
For entry in Academic Year 2022-23
Year 1 modules
You must study the following modules:
You must also choose from the following modules:
Learning and assessment
There is a focus on student-led and independent learning and teaching on this course, though you also work and test ideas with leading experts.
As well as seminars and presentations, you'll learn through a variety of methods including:
- designing exhibition proposals
- training in using a Total Station
- producing publication standard reports
- site mapping with Geophysical, GIS, LiDaR, remote sensing
We'll assess you through:
- reports and portfolios
- written exams and essays
- digital projects
- mapping packages
- group presentations
- dissertation research project
- field,laboratory, and practical tests
Your dissertation is a personal research project which has a 20,000 word limit and takes about 600 hours to complete. You must take the dissertation module to complete this course unless otherwise agreed with the course coordinator.
Your contact hours will vary depending on your module choices. Full information about contact hours is provided in individual module profiles.
90% of our archaeology master’s graduates are in employment or further study 6 months after graduation (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Survey).
Your research project could set you on the road to an academic or research career - and could end up being published in an academic journal. Many of our graduates go on to complete PhD studies.
You’ll gain lots of practical, vocational experience on the course. Most students go on to work in archaeology, the heritage industry and science. Job roles have included:
- maritime archaeologist
- project officer
- trainee geophysicist
- community outreach
- coastal process scientist
- civil servant
- forensic scientist
Our graduates have gone on to work for:
- Wessex Archaeology
- Historic Scotland
- Heritage Lottery Fund
- Geophysical Surveys of Bradford
- Channel Coastal Observatory
- Portsmouth City Council
- Maritime Archaeology Trust
- Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Your experience here will set you up with many transferable skills that will be valuable whatever career path you choose. You’ll gain experience of team working, presentation skills, networking and data analysis.
Careers services at Southampton
We're a top 20 UK university for employability (QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2020). Our Careers and Employability Service will support you throughout your time as a student and for up to 5 years after graduation. This support includes:
- work experience schemes
- CV/resume and interview skills workshops
- networking events
- careers fairs attended by top employers
- a wealth of volunteering opportunities
- study abroad and summer school opportunities
We have a thriving entrepreneurship culture. You'll be able to take advantage of:
Fees, costs and funding
Fees for a year's study:
- UK students pay £9,250.
- EU and international students pay £21,000.
What your fees pay for
Your tuition fee covers the full cost of tuition and all examinations.
Your fees also cover:
- the majority of the cost of fieldwork trips
- up to £350 transport costs for placements
Accommodation and living costs, such as travel and food, are not included in your tuition fees. Explore:
10% alumni discount
If you’re a graduate of the University of Southampton you get a 10% discount on your postgraduate tuition fees.
Postgraduate Master’s Loans (UK nationals only)
This can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate master's course. Find out if you're eligible.
International Postgraduate Taught Merit Scholarship
You are eligible for this scholarship if you:
• are an international student who hasn't taken a Master's with us before
• are enrolling to start a Master's in September 2021
• gained a 1st class honours degree at undergraduate level
If you meet these criteria you'll be awarded an automatic £3,000 scholarship. This will mean a £3,000 reduction in your tuition fees. We'll confirm your scholarship in your offer letter.
Unfortunately this offer isn't open to UK / EU students.
Other postgraduate funding options
A variety of additional scholarships, grants and bursaries may be available to help you fund your master’s study, both from the University and from other organisations.
Funding for EU and international students
Find out about funding you could get as an international student.
How to apply
- Use the 'apply for this course' button on this page to take you to our online application form.
- Search for the course you want to apply for.
- Complete the application form and upload any supporting documents.
- Submit your application.
Make sure we receive your application at least 4 weeks before the start of the course. This gives us time to consider your application, if there are still places available.
Make sure we receive your application at least 6 weeks before the start of the course.
This gives us time to consider your application, if there are still places available. It will also give you time to apply for a visa if we offer you a place.
Application assessment fee
We’ll ask you to pay a £50 application assessment fee if you’re applying for any postgraduate taught course that starts in or after September 2021.
This is an extra one-off charge which is separate to your tuition fees. It covers the work and time it takes us to assess your application. You’ll be prompted to pay when you submit your application which won’t progress until you've paid.
If you're a current or former University of Southampton student, if you're applying for a Master of Research (MRes) degree, or if you're applying for a PGCE course via UCAS, you will not need to pay the fee. Find out if you’re exempt on our terms and conditions page.
When you apply you’ll need to submit a personal statement explaining why you want to take the course.
You’ll need to include information about:
- your knowledge of the subject area
- why you want to study a postgraduate qualification in this course
- how you intend to use your qualification
You'll also need to send 2 academic references.
Please include the required paperwork showing your first degree and your IELTS English language test score (if you are a non-native English speaker) with your application. Without these, your application may be delayed.
You may also be asked to provide:
- a degree transcript
- evidence of professional qualifications
Learn more about how to apply with our postgraduate application guide.
What happens after you apply
You'll be able to track your application through our online Applicant Record System.
We'll assess your application on the strength of your:
- academic achievements
- relevant professional experience
- personal statement
- academic references
We'll aim to get back to you within 6 weeks with a decision about your application.
Equality and diversity
We treat and select everyone in line with our Equality and Diversity Statement.
Got a question?
Tel: +44(0)23 8059 5000
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