Archaeology of the North MSc

Archaeology of the North, MSc


The only degree of its kind in the world, reflecting the unique research focus of the Department of Archaeology at Aberdeen.

Key Facts

1 Year / 2 Years
Study Mode
Full Time / Part Time
Start Month
January / September
Learning Mode
On Campus Learning

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Developing the research skills required to investigate the material culture and heritage of the far northern hemisphere, a region that includes Scotland, the North Atlantic, Scandinavia and Baltic Europe, northern Russia and the circumpolar region through Siberia, the North Pacific and high-latitude North America.

With an emphasis on colonisation and culture contact, lifeways and world-views, every graduate is provided with a thorough knowledge of the theory and practice specific to northern archaeology, together with the foundation for further study or professional employment.

In addition, every graduate will have acquired detailed competence in a specialist regional or chronological field, chosen from a range of options across the entire northern world.

The degree can be taken as preparation for higher research, as a professional qualification or purely for interest.

What You'll Study

The information below applies to the 1 year full time / 2 year part time on campus learning MSc programme which runs in September. You will find information about other ways to study this programme in the next section on this page.

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Northern Worlds (AY5001)

In a series of research-led lectures and seminars, students investigate what characterises the Archaeology of the North from environmental, socio-cultural, and ideological aspects. We examine several inter-locking themes, from the first colonisations of the North tracing how these earlier populations established the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity that define later periods. Students will be introduced to the ecological characteristics of higher latitudes, and examine the diverse ways in which communities have made the Northern World their home. We also examine how human communities have responded to climate changes in the past, resilience and adaptation, technology, and spirituality amongst Northern peoples

Theory and Method in Research (AY5002)

In this course students will follow the development of archaeological thought from its roots in the scientific revolution of the 17th century through to the post-modern thinkers and finally discovering where the current theoretical debates stand. Students will explore the links between the theoretical development of archaeological research and the general developments in the history of science and philosophy. Students also explore different methodologies central to archaeological research, discuss what constitute archaeological data, and how to design a research project. Students will also discuss research ethics, and scientific agendas. These issues are explored through a series of lectures and seminars.

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Northern Peoples and Cultures (AY5501)

In a series of text based student-led seminars we study past Northern Peoples and Cultures through key topical debates, characteristic for different cultural regions and time periods. In the seminars students examine a range of northern contexts, from prehistory to more recent times all over the Circumpolar North. Students encounter topics as versatile as animal domestication in Northern Eurasia, Scandinavian Vikings, and Colonial North America illustrating the diversity of life and thought in Northern communities. Each seminar will also explore how particular key issues have become central to the ‘identity’ of archaeological research in the respective areas

Advanced Archaeological Approaches (AY5504)

As an advanced engagement with current trends and approaches in Northern Archaeology students examine current cutting edge debates associated with new theories and methodologies in archaeological research. Students will encounter the versatility of methodological and theoretical approaches in Northern research through four different themes central to the Archaeology of the North; Body and Death, Heritage and Memory, Social Space and Structures, Human and Environment. Each theme is explored through series of research led seminars and a practical, approaching the theme from different theoretical/methodological angels. The main assessment of the course is an Internal Masters Conference on these four themes.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Previous, final research projects include:

  • Landscapes of the Dead: A Study of the Pictish Barrow Cemeteries of North-East Scotland
  • Another World: A Study of Visitor Perceptions of Medieval Archaeology at Two Castles in Scotland

Dissertation in Archaeology of the North (AY5901)

This course let the students build on the skills and knowledge they acquired in the other courses of the MSc in Archaeology of the North, as they design and conduct their own research project. The student conduct independent studies on a topic of their own choice within the northern theme. All students will receive staff supervision in identifying a suitable topic and in completing an original research project. The course also includes a number of research seminars, and in addition to their written dissertation students are expected to produce a short popular piece presenting their research to a non-academic audience.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Field Work
  • Field Trips
  • Research
  • Individual Projects
  • Group Projects


Assessment for each 30-credit taught module is on the basis of one 3000-word essay and one project on topics relevant to the course, chosen in consultation with the course coordinator. The nature of the project may vary from course to course and include reports, exercises and presentations.

Following successful completion of the taught modules, students are allowed to advance to the dissertation, which involves in depth original research on a topic chosen in consultation with the advisor.

Why Study Archaeology of the North?

  • Established in 2007, we are the UK's youngest archaeology department, located in one of Europe's oldest universities. As befits the 'Global University of the North', archaeology at Aberdeen has a special high-latitude focus that is found nowhere else.
  • Reflecting this, our staff are prominent researchers and fieldworkers in Northern Europe, Scandinavia, the North Atlantic and the circumpolar region from Siberia to the Canadian arctic. Closer to home, the archaeology of Scotland is a natural priority.
  • Geographically, we are ideally suited to access some of the countries most interesting archaeological sites.
  • You will be taught by a dedicated team of Archaeologists with a broad range of expertise and teaching experience. 
  • Archaeological research at Aberdeen spans the the arts and humanities, physical and biological sciences, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the Archaeology and the collaborative ethos within the University. 
  • Find out more about the extensive range of facilities you will have access to as a student.
  • Field trips play a major part in the teaching of the programme. These vary each year and in the past we have taken students to the Moray Coast on Pictish focused field trips.
  • Hands-on learning with various approaches to teaching, including research-led lectures and seminars, where you will investigate what characterises the Archaeology of the North from environmental, socio-cultural, and ideological aspects. Also, student-led seminars where we study past Northern Peoples and Cultures through key topical debates, characteristic for different cultural regions and time periods.
  • Student numbers on the programme are small enough to allow for a strong level of teaching interaction and relationship building amongst students.
  • We have our own Facebook group which we would encourage you to become part of. This is your opportunity to engage with previous graduates.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fees and Funding Table for HOME, EU, RUK and International Students
Nationality Status Amount
Home / EU / RUK Students Tuition fee for main award £6,000
International Students Tuition fee for main award £16,100
  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trip courses. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.


View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Entry Requirements


Our minimum entry requirement for this programme is a 2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours degree (or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth) in any branch of Archaeology or related discipline such as Anthropology, Celtic Studies, History or History-related degree.

Language Requirements

All students entering the University must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study effectively at the University of Aberdeen.

Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the College of Physical Sciences Postgraduate Standard level of English proficiency.

If you have not achieved the required scores, the University of Aberdeen offers pre-sessional English courses. Further details are available on our Language Centre website.

Nationals of some English-speaking countries or those who hold degrees from some English-speaking countries may be exempt from this requirement. Details of countries recognised as English-speaking can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages.

Document Requirements

  • Degree Transcripta full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
  • Personal Statementa detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Degree Certificatea degree certificate showing your qualifications
  • CVan up-to-date CV/Resumé


Facilities available within Archaeology and the Colleges of Physical and Life Sciences

  • Petrographic and stereomicroscopes
  • Palynology laboratory
  • Hydrology laboratory
  • Dirty and clean sedimentary laboratories
  • Soil chemistry laboratory
  • Bioarchaeology laboratory and faunal reference collection
  • Archaeological Chemistry laboratory
  • Trace Element Speciation Laboratory
  • Department Field work Projects

    Department Field work Projects

    Staff and Research Students at University of Aberdeen are involved in a range of excavations and field projects, including both those directed by University of Aberdeen staff and in collaboration with other individuals and institutions.

    Find out more
  • Department Research

    Department Research

    Archaeological research at Aberdeen spans the the arts and humanities, physical and biological sciences, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the Archaeology and the collaborative ethos within the University.

    Find out more
  • Nunalleq Project and Archaeological Field School in Quinhagak, Alaska

    Nunalleq Project and Archaeological Field School in Quinhagak, Alaska

    In partnership with the village corporation Qanirtuuq, Inc. and the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Quinhagak, Alaska, is working to record archaeological sites threatened by rising sea levels along the Bering Sea.

    Find out more


Graduates from the programme move into a variety of careers. Many also choose to further their academic careers by undertaking PhD's.

Our Experts

Deputy Programme Coordinator
Dr Kate Britton
Other Experts
Dr Gordon Noble
Programme Coordinator
Dr Charlotta Hillerdal

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

What our Alumni Say

  • Carly Ameen, PhD Student at

    Carly Ameen

    Job Details
    PhD Student
    The unique focus on high latitude archaeology and the specific challenges associated with research in northern climates provides a great foundation for any research connected to these extreme environments.


College of Physical Sciences Graduate School
University of Aberdeen
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King's College

AB24 3UE
+44 (0)1224 272515
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