About this course
Palaeoarchaeology is an exciting interdisciplinary field that combines archaeology and natural sciences to explore how ancient populations lived in our evolutionary past.
- Experience a broad based foundation in the field of Palaeoarchaeology – the study of human evolution from archaeological, biological and environmental perspectives – while at the same time achieving standards necessary for employment or further study in this field
- Benefit from world-leading teaching in palaeoanthropology, dental anthropology, ancient DNA and virtual methods in anthropology. Our academics have expertise in Neanderthals and are involved in ongoing fieldwork projects at Gorham’s Cave, Shanidar Cave and Scladina Cave, all renowned sites with considerable history
- Gain field experience on Palaeolithic archaeological sites directed by LJMU staff in Gibraltar and Belgium and excavate human remains at our field school at Poulton nearby in Chester
- Develop post-excavation analytical skills. The programme opens up a wide range of careers, not only those related to archaeology, but also in wider fields of health, education, administration and business
This MSc offers the opportunity to trace the evolution of our lineage through time in the fossil record, drawing on the latest palaeoanthropological, genomic, archaeological and environmental evidence in this fast-changing and exciting field.
You will have the unique opportunity to excavate at prestigious Palaeolithic archaeological sites in Gibraltar and Belgium where you will be fully trained in cave excavation techniques and the recovery and processing of archaeological, environmental and skeletal remains. You will learn the latest theory and techniques for the analysis and interpretation of human skeletons recovered from archaeological contexts. You will then put this into practice through participating on excavations at our field school at the medieval site at Poulton, Cheshire, where you will excavate human skeletal remains.
Students will be expected to complete a minimum of two weeks of excavation practice if they have no previous fieldwork experience. This can be gained either in Gibraltar, Belgium, Poulton, or at any other suitable excavation sites identified by our dedicated work experience placement team.
You will gain experience of a wide range of laboratory post-excavation analytical techniques that are applicable and relevant to all periods of archaeology.
At LJMU we have some of the best-equipped specialist laboratory settings in the country, including extensive human skeletal collections and well-equipped research laboratories related to virtual anthropology, ancient DNA, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, climate modelling, geophysical survey, GIS, drones, artefact materials analyses and lipid analyses.
You will be taught in new human osteology laboratories, which house osteology collections and specialist equipment for digital radiography and 3-dimensional imaging, such as laser scanners and microscribes for advanced morphometric studies. Our campus provides other advanced laboratories for soil, animal and ancient DNA analyses and IT facilities supported by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic team of technical staff, many of whom are actively engaged in research and scholarly activity in the field.
Fees and funding
There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students
The fees quoted at the top of this page cover registration, tuition, supervision, assessment and examinations as well as:
- Library membership with access to printed, multimedia and digital resources
- Access to programme-appropriate software
- Library and student IT support
- Free on-campus wifi via eduroam
Although not all of the following are compulsory/relevant, you should keep in mind the costs of:
- accommodation and living expenditure
- books (should you wish to have your own copies)
- printing, photocopying and stationery
- PC/laptop (should you prefer to use your own)
- mobile phone/tablet (to access online services)
- field trips (travel and activity costs)
- placements (travel expenses and living costs)
- student visas (international students only)
- study abroad opportunities (travel costs, accommodation, visas and immunisations)
- academic conferences (travel costs)
- professional-body membership
- graduation (gown hire etc)
There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students. From loans to International Scholarships and subject-specific funding, you’ll find all of the information you need on our specialist postgraduate funding pages.
Further your career prospects
LJMU has an excellent employability record with 96% (HESA 2017) of our postgraduates in work or further study six months after graduation. Our applied learning techniques and strong industry connections ensure our students are fully prepared for the workplace on graduation and understand how to apply their knowledge in a real world context.
The broad-based nature of the subject and the skills it provides give a strong grounding for a wide range of careers. Career opportunities will be available in archaeology and wider fields of education, health, administration and business. Some graduates combine their initial job with voluntary archaeological work or with further part-time study of the subject.
Career opportunities could include:
- Archaeological Assistant/Contract Archaeologist
- Museum Curator
- Field Archaeologist
- Forensic practitioner
- PhD in Anthropology
- PhD in Zooarchaeology
- Community Archaeologist
Discover the building blocks of your course
Your programme is made up of a number of core modules and a dissertation as detailed below.
This module provides advanced training in the identification of teeth and deals with a wide range of dental anthropological topics. It aims to provide you with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience required by a Bioarchaeologist or Forensic Anthropologist to identify and examine human teeth, and to use them to characterise and compare both samples and individuals.
Advanced Osteology and Skeletal Pathology
The aim of this module is to provide you with an advanced knowledge of the human skeleton and the ability to identify animal bones, methods of curation of skeletal collections and understanding of pathological processes and how these relate to identification issues or population studies. It enables you to identify and describe the human skeleton, become familiar with animal bones and learn how to differentiate between the two.
This module provides extensive training in generic research knowledge and statistical techniques for the Natural Sciences. It aims to:
- provide you with a broad appreciation of research methods and methodology including an understanding of the uses and limitations of different research methods
- teach you how to design and execute a research project keeping in mind feasibility, ethics, data protection, and project logistics and funding
Archaeology, Human Evolution and Genetics
This module covers the latest advances in human evolution from the perspectives of archaeology, biological anthropology and genetics. The module includes the latest fossil and archaeological discoveries pertaining to the Plio-Pleistocene and the exciting genetic advances made from the recovery of ancient DNA of past hominin populations.
Archaeological Field Skills
This module covers excavation planning, execution and reporting. It includes assessed fieldwork and a compulsory competency placement comprising of at least two weeks’ excavation of an archaeological site.
Virtual Methods and GIS
This module focuses on attaining skills from computer-based analytical techniques and their applications to bioarchaeology. It covers geometric morphometrics, 2D and 3D data capture techniques including laser and CT scanning, drone technology and GIS methods. The module also allows you to develop a mini-project on an suitable topic of your choice in bioarchaeology.
The aim of this module is to enable you to conduct independent scientific research, in an appropriate manner, under the guidance of an academic tutor. It:
- gives you the opportunity to make a major contribution in a chosen subject area through a supervised programme of individual study
- allows you to demonstrate your ability to carry out scientific research and to present findings as a scientific report
An insight into teaching on your course
The programme is taught full-time. Due to the practical, hands-on learning and fieldwork aspects of the course, scheduled activities will vary from three days per week to five days per week.
We educate students in stimulating ways to help you develop intellectual skills for life and employment in the contemporary world. We deliver the programme through lectures, hands-on workshops, practicals and field trips. All members of staff are active researchers and regularly attend conferences, symposia and workshops. This active engagement in the discipline enables us to provide top quality teaching by experts in their field. Each student will be allocated a personal tutor who will be your dissertation supervisor.
For your research project you may find yourself working in our state-of-the art laboratory facilities, in the field or a museum collecting data, or you may choose to do your project on our large skeletal collections.
The course includes the unique opportunity for students to excavate at prestigious Palaeolithic archaeological sites in Gibraltar and Belgium where you will be fully trained in cave excavation techniques and the recovery and processing of archaeological, environmental and skeletal remains.
You will learn the latest theory and techniques for the analysis and interpretation of human skeletons recovered from archaeological contexts. You will then put this into practice through participating on excavations at our field school at the medieval site at Poulton, Cheshire, where you will excavate human skeletal remains.
How learning is monitored on your programme
To cater for the wide-ranging content of our courses and the varied learning preferences of our students, we offer a range of assessment methods on each programme. Assessment techniques vary from module to module to reflect relevant assessment approaches and the key learning points of each topic.
Assessments are through a combination of reports, essays, tests and oral and poster presentations. The dissertation will be up to 15,000 words and is an original piece of research on a topic of your choice in discussion with your dissertation supervisor.
Our staff are committed to the highest standards of teaching and learning
Richard’s main research interest is in human evolution. His research examines the emergence, evolution and disappearance of Neanderthals and the origins of anatomically and behaviourally modern humans. He explores these topics at different spatial scales – from the detailed recovery of archaeological, fossil and environmental evidence from cave excavations through to large-scale GIS Palaeolithic site distribution analyses, palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and climate modelling. Richard's current projects include the excavation of Neanderthal and modern human levels at Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar; the search for the Palaeolithic in Ireland; new excavations at Ballynamintra Cave, Co. Waterford; and mapping and the earliest human occupation of Polynesia through a revision of radiocarbon dates.
I love sharing my passion for anthropology with my students and working in a discipline which includes both fieldwork and doing analyses in the lab.
What you can expect from your School
Palaeoarchaeology students use our new human osteology laboratories in the James Parsons Building in the City Campus. This purpose-built facility stores the osteology collections and specialist equipment for digital radiography and 3-dimensional imaging, such as laser scanners and microscribes for advanced morphometric studies. There are also other advanced laboratories for soil, animal and ancient DNA analyses as well as IT facilities supported by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic team of technical staff, many of whom are actively engaged in research and scholarly activity in the field.
Order your brochure Research
You will need:
- a good honours degree in a science-related field
- alternative qualifications with a significant period of relevant work experience
- IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent (minimum 5.5 in all components)
- Pearson : 58-64 (minimum 51 in each component for UKVI Purposes)
- RPL is accepted on this programme
- International students applying to study a full-time taught Masters, MRes, MPhil or PhD at LJMU should check if they require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme or ATAS certificate
- International students entering on a Tier 4 visa cannot study part-time
If you have any specific queries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Application and selection
Securing your place at LJMU
You will apply for the majority of postgraduate courses using our online application form. You should complete the form thoroughly and provide a detailed personal statement which reflects your suitability and aptitude for the programme.
The University reserves the right to withdraw or make alterations to a course and facilities if necessary; this may be because such changes are deemed to be beneficial to students, are minor in nature and unlikely to impact negatively upon students or become necessary due to circumstances beyond the control of the University. Where this does happen, the University operates a policy of consultation, advice and support to all enrolled students affected by the proposed change to their course or module.
Further information on the terms and conditions of any offer made, our admissions policy and the complaints and appeals process.