Biomolecular Archaeology, MSc

Biomolecular Archaeology, MSc


This unique one year taught postgraduate programme combines cutting-edge biomolecular research with archaeological and evolutionary approaches, taught across the fields of archaeology, biological and medical science.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study

This programme combines the study of ancient biomolecules in archaeology with advanced genetic, biomedical and evolutionary research to offer important insights and perspectives on key topics fundamental to human society, such as our evolutionary origins, our rich biological and cultural diversity, ancient health and disease, life history patterns, and past responses to environmental and climate change. It also offers insights to similar questions but for other, non-human organisms such as wild and domestic plants and animals.

Biomolecular Archaeology therefore provides a set of analytical tools important not only for archaeologists, but also for biologists, ecologists, environmental scientists, and biomedical professionals, all of whom benefit greatly from gaining direct insights to past biological diversity.

The principal aim of the MSc in Biomolecular Archaeology is to equip students from a range of different backgrounds with the theoretical and practical skills required for analysing the most commonly preserved ancient biomolecules, with specific emphasis on palaeogenetics, genome sequencing and bioinformatics.

With a practical and applied focus, the programme combines cutting-edge biomolecular research with archaeological and evolutionary approaches and methods. Students will benefit from a choice of courses offered across the fields of archaeology, biological and medical sciences, and study key cross-disciplinary topics such as human evolution, plant and animal domestication, human diets and migrations, ancient pathogens, and human adaptations to past environments.

Students will have the opportunity to learn how biomolecules degrade and preserve in archaeological materials, and how they are extracted and analysed, the strategies and tools used in analysing DNA sequence data, and to develop their own, original biomolecular archaeology research project with specialists in our dedicated laboratories.

What You'll Study


Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Ancient Biomolecules (AY5011)

30 Credit Points

This course provides a broad introduction to the field of Biomolecular Archaeology and the study of ancient biomolecules. In a series of lectures, seminars and practicals, you will learn key theoretical concepts, principles, and laboratory methods underpinning state-of-the-art research on ancient biomolecules, such as DNA, proteins and lipids

Molecular Genetics (MB5025)

15 Credit Points

The course provides a detailed exploration of the structure and function of genes at the molecular and biochemical level. It covers the analysis of genome activity from the 3D structure of chromosomes through to RNA and DNA-protein interactions. The course will provide you with a thorough understanding of the approaches and molecular biology techniques used in modern molecular genetics research and its applications in gene editing and gene therapies.

Bioinformatics (MB5021)

15 Credit Points

A course containing a series of lectures describing 'latest-methods and discoveries' in areas of bioinformatics and functional genomics including transcriptomics, proteomics, and DNA sequence analysis.Contains a series of in-depth workshops that teach the principles and practice of next generation sequence analysis, transcriptomics, proteomics and sequence similarity analysis.

Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Palaeogenetics (AY5507)

30 Credit Points

This course provides students with an in-depth overview of the study of ancient DNA. Through extensive training in theoretical concepts and principles, laboratory methods, and bioinformatics, you will attain specialist skills in the analysis of DNA extracted from archaeological remains.

Optional Courses

Further 30 credits from:

Advanced Genomic Tools in Biomedical Research (MB5528)

15 Credit Points

A course describing the wide range of ways in which genome sequencing has transformed biomedical research and our understanding of human disease.

Contains material detailing a range of examples of advanced genomic tools and technologies and their applications in biomedical science.

A course that makes wide use of the literature, allowing you to read about and understand the latest genomics-based methods.

A course placing a high value on its teaching and learning; lecture material supported by workshops – your chance to put knowledge into practice, ask questions and enjoy the science.

Advanced Archaeological Approaches (AY5504)

30 Credit Points

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.

Advanced Bioinformatics and Genome Sequencing (MB5522)

15 Credit Points

An exciting course that brings a student right up to date with bioinformatics, genome assembly and annotation technology. You, the student, will analyse the genome of an unknown bacterium from the environment. The genome of this isolate has been extracted and whole genome sequenced. You will assemble your own bacterial genome and functionally annotate it, taught by expert bioinformaticians from our Centre for Genome-Enabled Biology and Medicine. Your analysis will enable you to identify the species you have isolated, produce a full inventory of genes and their presumptive functions, allowing an exploration of the antibiotic resistance potential of the bacteria. Overall, the course prepares a student for future employment in a biosciences' workplace, where genome sequencing, assembly and annotation is becoming an everyday tool of modern biotechnology.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Dissertation in Archaeological Science (AY5906)

60 Credit Points

This course enables students on the MSc in Biomolecular Archaeology or MSc in Bioarchaeological Science programmes to develop their own research project in archaeological science. Students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in conducting extensive literature review and synthesis, formulating a clear and concise research question, and design and execute practice-oriented research.

We will endeavour to make all course options available. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
UK £10,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
EU / International students £22,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Fee Information

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. 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 Tuition Fees page.


Self-funded international students enrolling on postgraduate taught (PGT) programmes will receive one of our Aberdeen Global Scholarships, ranging from £3,000 to £8,000, depending on your domicile country. Learn more about the Aberdeen Global Scholarships here.

To see our full range of scholarships, visit our Funding Database.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Seminars

Why Study Biomolecular Archaeology?

  • Recent advances and breakthroughs in genetics and other biological sciences have catapulted Biomolecular Archaeology to the forefront of modern science.
  • Cross-disciplinary by definition, the MSc in Biomolecular Archaeology uniquely draws on theory and practice from other disciplines such as molecular biology, evolutionary genetics, bioinformatics, and chemistry.
  • The learning methods include traditional and interactive lectures covering the theoretical underpinnings of key concepts, principles and practices in Biomolecular Archaeology along with seminars and student-led discussions and workshops in which problem-based learning is central, and which aims at reinforcing learning of content covered previously in lectures and seminars.
  • Practicals also allow students to gain hands-on experience with key laboratory methods (both wet-lab and computational/bioinformatics).
  • Students are trained in the preparation and written presentation of laboratory reports handling biomolecular (archaeological) data.
  • Working knowledge (also a practical skill) in managing ethical concerns in archaeology and genetics is also included.
  • The Dissertation in Archaeological Science (60 credit points) in semester 3 involves an extensive literature review, and research design and execution is central and provides students with an opportunity for attaining broader and more detailed knowledge of cutting-edge specialisms in Biomolecular Archaeology.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

  • 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 archaeology (or a related discipline such as anthropology, earth sciences, or history), biological or medical sciences.


  • 2:2 in archaeology or a related discipline as above, with relevant professional experience.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

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

Aberdeen Global Scholarship

Eligible self-funded postgraduate taught (PGT) students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Explore our Global Scholarships, including eligibility details, on our dedicated page.

Aberdeen Global Scholarships


Biomolecular archaeology is a rapidly developing field of study. Graduates of this programme will be well placed to pursue careers working as professional archaeologists, either for archaeology companies or for universities, museums, local authorities or other heritage sector organisations. The knowledge and skills taught on this programme are highly transferable and have multiple applications beyond archaeology, for example in molecular biology.

Our Experts

Head of Department
Dr Kate Britton
Programme Coordinator
Dr Linus Girdland

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX