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 7th in the UK for archaeology (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2022).
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 2022 to 2023. 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.
For entry in Academic Year 2022-23
Year 1 modules
You must study the following modules:
Archaeology Masters Dissertation
The dissertation is a personal research project which is completed with guidance from a personal supervisor. It takes place primarily over the summer period and should involve original research and high-quality formal presentation of material. The word li...
Contexts for Human Origins Research
The module will focus on the major questions which have been, and are being, asked of Palaeolithic data. These include such issues as language origins, global colonisation, population replacement, and hominin responses to palaeoclimatic and palaeoenviron...
The Analysis of Palaeolithic Stone Tool Assemblages
This is a practical module in handling and interpreting stone tools and developing behavioural interpretations to explain the patterns seen. Stone tools remain the most significant part of the Palaeolithic cultural heritage. This course provides traini...
You must also choose from the following modules:
Analysis of archaeological faunal remains
This module will cover the practical skills necessary to identify, record and interpret animal bones from archaeological sites as well as the techniques used for the study of animals in human life in the past. You will learn methods of identification of ...
Applied Maritime Archaeology
This fifteen credit module will introduce you to the theoretical, ethical, logistic, technical and legislative issues that have to be addressed if the theory and practice of archaeology are to be successfully applied in the investigation of sites underwat...
Archaeology of Seafaring
Seafaring lies at the heart of human activity across the world and has taken place from the earliest times to the present day. Reflecting this, in recent years the study of seafaring has become an increasingly important area in our understanding of the hu...
Bioarchaeology of Human Remains
The first portion of the module comprises the learning of the basics of human osteology and palaeopathology. The second portion is more theoretically driven and integrates bioarchaeology with skeletal analysis, including topics such as age, gender, ethnic...
Cultural Heritage within Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process required in many countries to predict the consequences of proposed projects (e.g. construction) or policies (e.g. ground water management). This includes assessing the impact on cultural heritage assets. ...
Ecology of human evolution: biological, social and cultural approaches to hominin adaptations.
This module explores human evolution in terms of physiological, social and cultural adaptations. It explores human ecology in the broad sense, combining not just cultural and social variability, but also physiological adaptations in past and present-day h...
GIS for Archaeology
This module aims to acquaint you with Geographic Information Systems including their use for mapping and analysing archaeological sites and landscapes, and to explain the broader context of their application to a range of archaeological research and manag...
Global Cultural Heritage
This module takes a global perspective and deals with the many varieties of cultural heritage from the tangible built environment to intangible heritage represented by a society’s traditional knowledge and customs. It will explore the reasons we do, or sh...
Iron Age Societies
Iron Age Europe witnessed the divergence of a ‘classical' Mediterranean world, whose culture included such features as states, towns, coinage and literacy, from a ‘barbarian' world to the north, where these features developed only much later, if at all. T...
Later Anglo-Saxon England
This module examines the major social, economic and cultural developments that took place in England during the period between c. 800 and c. 1100 AD. It makes use of evidence from diverse disciplines, including the study of documentary, archaeological, ar...
Living with the Romans: Urbanism in the Roman Empire
The towns in which the Romans lived are some of the most familiar features of the Roman world. Although they seem to look and feel like modern towns, they actually worked in quite different ways, a reflection of the fact that ancient Roman society was dis...
Maritime Aspects of Culture
This module will introduce you to the key theoretical and technical concepts used in maritime archaeology, along with its evidence base. It has been designed to provide an accelerated learning curve for those who are new to the subject area, developing c...
Maritime Museums and Heritage Management
As maritime archaeology becomes an increasingly mainstream part of the discipline of archaeology, public awareness of the importance of protecting, managing and disseminating maritime cultural heritage assumes a heightened importance. At the same time, cl...
Materials, Technology and Social Life
This module examines the central role of technology in archaeological constructions of social life. It integrates techniques for the investigation of materials in archaeological science with discussions of social theory. Case studies from a range of diffe...
The extraction and characterization of ancient molecules and the measurement of stable and radioactive isotopes has revolutionized archaeology over the past two decades and remains at the cutting edge of archaeological science. From the identification of ...
More than Pyramids & Pharaohs? Ancient Egypt in Context
The module provides an introduction to the history and archaeology of ancient Egypt. The module provides a broad sweep of Egyptian history from the Predynastic through to later periods. It introduces aspects of death, burial and commemoration, compares an...
Museums in the Modern World
This module examines the past, present and future of heritage communication. It will explore the ever-changing purposes and practices espoused by and employed by heritage bodies, including museums, with a primary but not exclusive focus on UK institutions...
The waters of the world have frequently served to connect rather than divide communities, leading to water transport becoming of vital importance to society. The remains of ships and boats thus constitute a key primary source for maritime archaeology. Th...
Palaeopathology in Context
The module comprises 2 sections; the first comprises seminars based upon current theoretical and methodological developments within palaeopathology and bioarchaeology, whereas the second portion comprises development of detailed skeletal and palaeopatholo...
Professional Placement in the Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Sector
A key component of higher archaeological practice is the development of archaeological vocational skills, and the application of what is learnt at university in the working environment. The archaeological methods and skills taught at university have diver...
This module is designed to equip students with the essential core skills to engage with higher-level archaeological practice within the UK and overseas. By this, we refer to activities beyond routine fieldwork procedures such as survey and excavation. The...
Seeing beneath the soil: geophysical survey for archaeology
The development of geophysical survey methods has provided archaeologists with a wholly new approach to buried archaeological remains allowing - in some circumstances - plans of entire archaeological sites to be obtained prior to any excavation. The use o...
Stonehenge to Skara Brae: the Neolithic of Britain
The Neolithic period heralds some of the most momentous changes in human history; it is the period when prehistoric people began to live in permanent settlements and adopted agriculture. In Britain, this period is dominated by rich evidence for large monu...
The Archaeology and Anthropology of Adornment
The impulse to adorn the body is as old as human history. This module explores the extraordinary variety of ways in which people have adorned their bodies in a range of archaeological and anthropological contexts, from body painting and tattooing, to the ...
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 2022). 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:
- our dedicated start-up incubator, Futureworlds
- a wide variety of enterprise events run throughout the year
- our partnership in the world’s number 1 business incubator, SETsquared
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.
Southampton Humanities Postgraduate Global Talent Scholarship
Twenty scholarships of £5,000 are available to international students joining our postgraduate master’s courses at the School of Humanities in September 2023.
Find out more about the Southampton Humanities Postgraduate Global Talent Scholarship, including eligibility, deadlines and how to apply.
Southampton Arts and Humanities Deans Global Talent Scholarship
Ten scholarships of £10,000 each are available to international students studying for an undergraduate degree or a postgraduate master’s degree in Arts and Humanities.
Find out more about the Southampton Arts and Humanities Deans Global Talent Scholarship, including eligibility, deadlines and how to apply.
Other postgraduate funding options
A variety of additional funding options may be available to help you pay for your master’s study. Both from the University and 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.
The deadline for applying for your course for the 2023 year of entry depends on where you're domiciled (where your permanent home is and where you have the closest ties).
This is because:
- students from different countries tend to apply at different times of year
- we want a diverse and balanced mix of international students with exceptional academic ability
|Place of domicile||Deadline|
|China||29 March 2023|
|Everywhere else, including the UK||7 July 2023|
We must receive new applications by midday GMT.
The deadlines may still move to:
- an earlier date if we have already received enough applications before the deadline
- a later date if there are still places available on the deadline
We receive many high-quality applications, so places for many of our courses are very competitive.
Application assessment fee
We’ll ask you to pay a £50 application assessment fee if you’re applying for a postgraduate taught course.
This is an extra one-off charge which is separate to your tuition fees and is payable per application. 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, or if you’re applying for certain scholarships, you will not need to pay the fee. PGCE applications through GOV.UK and Master of Research (MRes) degree applications are also exempt. 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
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 will aim to send you a decision 6-8 weeks after you have submitted your application.
If we offer you a place, you will need to accept the offer within 30 working days. If you do not meet this deadline, we will offer your place to another applicant.
Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications we receive, we may not be able to give you specific feedback on your application if you are unsuccessful.
Equality and diversity
We treat and select everyone in line with our Equality and Diversity Statement.
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
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