MSc
2022 start September 

Palaeoanthropology

Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Trace the evolution of our species and discover more about what it means to be human.
Group of archaeology postgraduates

Course description

Palaeoanthropology traces the evolution of humanity. It reflects our desire to understand where we come from, which is part of what it means to be human. This is a subject that attracts intense interest from the public and from academics of all disciplines. It’s increasingly recognised as providing important insights into human behaviour and cognition.  

Our MSc draws on the latest thinking, combining biological anthropology, human and comparative anatomy, primatology and hominid palaeontology to give you an advanced understanding of the subject and its possibilities.  

Closely integrated modules develop your understanding of the palaeoanthropological record. You will also get training in the analytical techniques required to describe and interpret skeletal and fossil evidence – this includes an introduction to 2D and 3D imaging.

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Modules

The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Core modules:

Research Design: Planning, Execution and Presentation

This module provides students with the advanced understanding they need to design an effective research project, that addresses a question relevant to current debate in archaeology, and in particular to plan a successful MA/MSc dissertation. It comprises six group seminar sessions and three seminars in which students from different courses are streamed to be taught subject-specific material by experts in the field. The module culminates in a research day during which students present their dissertation plans to their peers and staff assessors. Assessment is in two parts: a succinct powerpoint presentation of dissertation proposal and outline; and a grant proposal.

15 credits
Dissertation

This module requires students to plan, execute and write up an original research project. This dissertation project is chosen with, and approved by, the designated supervisor, who may or may not be the programme director. Dissertation topics must be based on original research and on the students' own ideas: they must be worthwhile, affordable, manageable within time limits, be capable of supervision within the Department and related to the subject matter on the appropriate Masters.

60 credits
Dissertation (Journal Paper Style)

This module requires students to plan, execute and write up an original research project. This dissertation project is chosen with, and approved by, the designated supervisor, who may or may not be the programme director. Dissertation topics must be based on original research and on the students' own ideas: they must be worthwhile, affordable, manageable within time limits, be capable of supervision within the Department and related to the subject matter on the appropriate Masters. Students who choose this particular type of dissertation will place particular emphasis on synthetic writing and an ability to familiarise themselves with journal publicaton submission and style. With the exception of the word count the students will follow the editorial guidelines of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

60 credits
Human Evolution: Theory and Practice in Research

This seminar module will present both historical and current issues in the study of human evolution, including new hominid fossil descriptions, debates over interpretations and explanatory models of primate and hominid palaeobiology, theoretical and philosophical topics in evolution, and practical and technological advances in early hominid fossil and archaeological interpretation. In some weeks, students will be required to prepare materials to lead the seminars, and occasional group work exercises will be introduced. The seminar topics will change from year to year to reflect new research, staff projects, guest lecturer availability, and student interests.

15 credits
Evolutionary Anatomy

This module incorporates lectures and practical demonstration (laboratory) sessions to explore the application of anatomical principles to the comparison and interpretation of the hominid and primate fossil record. The schedule is co-ordinated with that of AAP683, and incorporates additional material in lab sessions to understand the functional and comparative anatomy of modern and extinct hominoid primates. Demonstrations apply the knowledge of musculoskeletal and comparative anatomy to interpretation of hominid fossil specimens (casts and published information), and to understand the evolutionary adaptations of the hominid lineage.

15 credits
Quantitative methods in anthropology and archaeology

This module introduces learners to current research methods for the analysis of archaeological and anthropological data using advanded statistical and computational methods. The module includes lectures and practical classes which explore a series of examples of the application of statistics and numerical methods to quantitative problems in the archaeological sciences including biological anthropology, palaeoanthropology and environmental archaeology.

15 credits
Human Anatomy

This module familiarises students with the human musculoskeletal system, providing knowledge of the head, neck and appendicular skeleton and its muscles and nerves, as well as insights into functional, developmental and comparative aspects of human morphology

15 credits
Human Osteology

In this module the students are introduced to the human skeleton, both adult and immature, and comparative primate skeletons. They are provided with in depth information on how to recognise individual bones, how to side elements by being familiar with all pertinent landmarks. They will be introduced to the size and shape variation present in the skeleton of Homo sapiens, including variations due to sex, ethnic affinity, and temporal changes.

15 credits

Optional modules:

Biological Anthropology I

The module provides a theoretical background to the study of human skeletal remains as well as essential practical skills in the osteological analysis of human bone.

15 credits
Biological Anthropology II

These classes expand on the core material covered in AAP680 Biological Anthropology 1 and cover the application of biological anthropology to broad research questions that are of fundamental importance in the study of past communities and societies. Half of the module explores the principal approaches by which analysis of the human skeleton can be contextualised. The other half of the module explores palaeopathological lesions and their interpretation as evidence of health and disease in the past. 

15 credits
Archaeozoology

Zooarchaeology (or Archaeozoology) is the study of past human interaction with animals through the analysis of their material remains. This module provides a practical introduction to the identification, analysis and interpretation of animal bones from archaeological sites. Practical skills are developed through group laboratory work, concentrating on mammals but also touching on other classes of vertebrates. Methodological and theoretical issues in archaeological interpretation are discussed in the classes in combination with the hands-on work. The course culminates in a project report, which reconstructs animal exploitation through the analysis of ageing and biometrical data.

15 credits
Assemblage Analysis

Assemblage Analysis provides students with opportunities to develop their skills in the analytical study of archaeological evidence: human or animal bone, archaeobotanical remains or inorganic material culture. Students will build their confidence in working on archaeological material and datasets as independent researchers. The module will prepare students for undertaking assemblage-based reporting in professional and academic research.

15 credits
Applied Bioarchaeological Science

This course acquaints the student with a number of scientific analytical techniques and methods which are pertinent to the interpretation of key questions in bioarchaeology. These include histology and microscopic, chemical and isotopic techniques, ancient DNA analysis, lipid analysis and proteomics. It provides a theoretical introduction as well as some practical experience in sample preparation methodologies, data collection and analysis. The potential and limitations of methods are discussed through specific case studies.

15 credits

You can also take 15 credits of modules from across the Department.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Duration

  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 years part-time

Teaching

You can expect a balanced timetable of lectures, seminars and practicals. You’ll have access to specialist labs and world-class reference collections. Many of our masters courses include a fieldwork or project-based component.

We integrate humanities and science-based approaches to nurture a deeper understanding. You’ll have the opportunity to explore different viewpoints and make up your own mind about their strengths and weaknesses.

We’ll help you to develop your critical thinking as well as your practical skills. What we ask of you, as a member of our lively academic community, is that you challenge, question, and explore.

Fieldwork

All our masters  students have the option to get involved in research projects – in the UK, Europe and elsewhere – even if fieldwork isn’t part of your course.

Student profiles

I love the mix of both theoretical and practical teaching we get. We have seminars but we also get to handle the materials, which is fun and interesting.

Margaret James,
Postgraduate student in the Department of Archaeology

Entry requirements

Usually a minimum 2:1 honours degree in an arts, humanities or science subject. But your interest in and understanding of archaeology is more important than what you studied at undergraduate level.

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component, or equivalent.

Pathway programme for international students

If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Science and Engineering or Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Fees and funding

Studentships

If you accept a place on a course, you may be eligible to apply for White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH) and University of Sheffield studentships. We also offer a number of department and course-specific scholarships. See the department's fees and funding page for more information.

Apply

You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

Contact

archaeology-masters@sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 2900

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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