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How can we reconstruct ancient diets using isotopes? What can scientific analysis of materials such as pottery or metals tell us? How can we use genetics to help us better understand ancient and modern societies?

The MPhil in Archaeological Science consists of lectures and seminars, as well as laboratory sessions giving hands-on experience as you develop areas of specialisation. Group sizes are generally small, allowing for higher student participation. 

Cambridge’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities in the Archaeology Department, as well as collaborations across other Departments, mean students are offered experience in all relevant techniques necessary for training or research. 

The course has a vast scope lending itself to interdisciplinary engagement. You will have the opportunity to learn several theories and methodologies while using the latest technology across the fields of:

  • Materials analysis
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Archaeobotany
  • Proteomics
  • Genomics
  • Computational archaeology
  • Isotopic and molecular archaeology

With the support of Cambridge’s world-class expertise, facilities, and the latest scientific methods at their disposal, you are trained in research skills to carry out your own independent projects. 


This MPhil programme offers you the opportunity to acquire experience on an extensive range of themes and analytical methods. Because students get experience in more than one method, connections across fields (for example, between environmental archaeology and material cultures studies) are promoted. 

Some cross-cutting themes linking the different analytical approaches include:

  • palaeodiet and palaeoclimate reconstructions 
  • ancient trade and exchange
  • life-histories of landscapes, people and things
  • the roles of ancient and modern archaeogenetic studies
  • the potential for ancient proteins in archaeology and cultural heritage
  • identity, knowledge transfer and mobility in society and material culture
  • craft organisation and technological innovations
  • food procurement, the origins and spread of agriculture and animal herding
  • taphonomy and site formation

These themes can be explored in a variety of ways, such as:

  • isotopic analyses of human and animal tissue
  • microscopic, chemical and isotopic analyses of artefacts and other material remains
  • protein and DNA analyses of biogenic samples
  • zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical investigations
  • the application of soil micromorphology to palaeosols and archaeological settlements
  • spatial and temporal analysis of settlement distribution


In this 10-month programme, you are able to design your own curriculum according to your interests. Modules in archaeological science can be combined with modules on particular theories, periods, or regions. 

Two term-long core modules provide a general foundation, as well as training in the applications and practice of the established techniques in archaeological science, using examples from varied materials, methods, regions, periods and problems:

  • G19 Principles of Archaeological Science
  • G20 Applications of Archaeological Science

You then choose at least two term-long archaeological science modules from a rotating list that may include: 

  • AS8 Biomolecular Archaeology
  • AS9 Archaeological Materials and Technologies
  • AS6 Environmental Archaeology (encompassing faunal and botanical analysis)
  • AS1 Foundation Statistics 
  • AS3 Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology

You also have the possibility of choosing modules in the archaeology of a specific area, other methodologies, or archaeological concepts. Students are also required to take G01 Graduate Research Skills.
The Graduate Research Skills module gives all students on an archaeology MPhil a grounding in research and prepares them for putting together in-depth pieces of work around a central question or discussion. It involves participating in seminars on topics such as planning fieldwork, research ethics, writing and illustrating research, and presenting your work. For this module, you will prepare a short research proposal and present it to the group. 

The dissertation project is often formed from an extended application of one of the above techniques to address an important issue in archaeology. It is an opportunity to independently research and formulate a piece of original archaeological research. Applicants for this MPhil generally come from archaeology, science, or any other related discipline, and are willing to learn new things in unique ways, apply their critical skills, and share their knowledge as it expands. We actively encourage diversity, and tailor our teaching to challenge students, enabling them to build on their strengths.

The programme is an excellent foundation for further postgraduate study (for instance, PhD work using the methodological and conceptual skills developed in it), as well as providing skills in critical thinking, collaborative working, multimedia communication, numeracy aptitude, and the use of advanced analytical instruments.

Some previous dissertations topics:

  • Using isotopes to investigate Vitamin D Deficiency and physiological Stress in people from a medieval Cambridge Hospital
  • A structure's life and death: micromorphological analysis of a Neolithic Serbian house
  • Archaemetallurgical studies of recent metal objects from Southeastern Nigeria
  • A Chaîne Opératoire Approach to Copper Production in the Republic of the Congo, 15th-17th c. CE
  • Woodland and charcoal use at a Bronze Age Indus Valley city
  • A Multi-Method Approach to Ceramic Analysis in Late Copper Age Northern Mesopotamia
  • Investigating herd management and foraging in Bronze Age Italy: proteomic studies

Further information

Dr Carmen Ting is the co-ordinator for this MPhil option. Please get in touch for further information.

Key information

Course length

10 months, full-time


4+ modules with 4-6 assessments

Graduate Research Skills 

Dissertation of up to 15,000 words

Course co-ordinator

Dr Carmen Ting

Postgraduate Study at Cambridge