Specialize in Landscape- or Environmental Archaeology and learn to gather information to interpret ancient landscapes and environments through inventory, mapping and sampling. By mixing theory with practical exercises in the field and laboratory, you prepare for a career in a number of different disciplines and you can work both locally and globally with important societal issues such as sustainability, climate change and cultural environment work.
During the degree programme you will build upon your existing knowledge of archaeology, Quaternary science, physical geography or related subjects. You will develop skills in methods for analysing landscape and environmental evidence, focussing on field survey and mapping in landscape studies, and plant and insect remains in the environmental programme. During the first semester you will develop your understanding of the key methodologies and issues that relate to interpreting natural and cultural landscapes through field, lab and class-based study. You will also learn to read the landscape and determine the nature of human landscape interactions, and if specialising in environmental archaeology you will also study the traces left in soils and sediments by studying their physical and chemical properties.
Both Landscape Archaeology and Environmental Archaeology offer the opportunity to develop your understanding of the ways in which humans have impacted on, and interacted with, the natural world. By studying the physical remains of past human activity and analysing the organic (ecofacts) and chemical remains or artefacts that represent the cultural fingerprints of this activity, using methods from the physical and natural sciences, you can build a picture of the role humans have played in different ecosystems. Within these fields we study long timescales of landscape change and human-landscape interactions from the end of the Ice Age until historical times, and from the earliest hunters to the first farmers and beyond. During the programme the teaching is linked in areas such as the History, Theory and Method course, but you will follow distinct pathways within these depending on your chosen specialism, i.e. Landscape or Environmental Archaeology.
Landscape archaeology studies the relationships between material culture and human-landscape interactions, as well as how humans have shaped the natural environment to suit their needs over the past 10,000 years. Landscape studies integrate a range of inter-disciplinary approaches in the study of culture, including the modelling of spaces and places, which are regarded as actively influencing past behaviour. The nature of this interaction constitutes a central theoretical concept within these studies. Landscape archaeology is a discipline within archaeology. Yet it is also a distinct field with vocational aspects that take field archaeology beyond its core (research/commercial) roots towards a much broader and informed understanding of human-landscape interactions. It also allows the post-graduate student the opportunity to develop more important skills necessary to pursue a research career in landscape studies.
Areas of research include cartography, archival studies, landscape regression modelling, Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing, field surveying and excavation techniques. Taken together these methods make Landscape Archaeology fundamental to studies concerning the human manipulation of landscapes and how this in turn has influenced current society through feedback loops that include climate change, social ideologies such as gender and class inequality, and narratives of cultural identity.
Environmental Archaeology employs scientific methods to reconstruct past environments in order to determine how human activity shaped past landscapes and environments. It is thus both a field and laboratory-based discipline. The study of geological processes, soils and sediments, vegetation and fauna remains are used to reconstruct past environments, including identifying changes in land-use, subsistence strategies, dietary pathways and thus, by extension, the socio-cultural development of human groups over time.
The emphasis on scientific techniques aligns Environmental Archaeology with the biological sciences and ecology. This provides an extra dimension to the study of societies, allowing for a more holistic understanding of the past. This has led to the realisation that the environment can have significant social, political and economic importance for human communities. Environmental Archaeology is multi-disciplinary. Beyond the techniques listed above, it now includes isotopes (to study diet, mobility, climate etc.) and biomolecules (lipids, proteins and DNA). This has revolutionised our understanding of past populations, including their movements (both physically and genetically) and highlighted the global diversity that is characteristic of past societies.
When studying landscape or environmental archaeology, you mix theory with practice in the field and lab. You learn specialised survey and sampling methods to investigate questions such as what the landscape looked like, how humans interacted with the landscape, what prehistoric people grew and ate, and how the climate has changed over time. The learning environment is mainly focussed on real world problems, and during the programme you build up a tool kit of methods and skills for survey, excavation, analysis, interpretation and presentation of either landscape archaeological or environmental archaeology. You will work closely within a real-world project and learning environment aimed at ensuring the development of vocational and research skills.
At the start of the programme, with help and advice from the course teachers if needed, you will decide if you would prefer to specialise in either landscape or environmental archaeology during your time with us.
During the first year of the programme, you will obtain a solid foundation in landscape and environmental archaeological field, lab and research methods, alongside studying more detailed history, theory and methods components. In order to effectively map landscapes, survey, excavation and study sites, you will also learn Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for landscape archaeology and environmental archaeology. The first year ends with an independent thesis (15ECTS), which allows you to apply for the degree of Magister.
During the second year, you can customize your degree further according to your main interests. If you choose a generalist profile, then you can choose from a number of electives or undertake a traineeship for an entire term. If you choose a specialist profile, it is half a term of electives or traineeship followed by the Methodological specialisation course. The final term consists of a 30 ECTS Master's thesis.
GIS for Landscape & Environmental Archaeology, 15 ECTS (Co-Taught Course)
Landscape / Environmental Archaeology project work/thesis, 15 ECTS
Optional/elective courses or internship/work placement (Vocational / Research tracks) of a total of 30 ECTS
Masters Thesis in either Landscape or Environmental Archaeology, 30 ECTS
This degree prepares you for work in the heritage sector, field/commercial archaeology, environmental archaeology, as an administrator or investigator at a heritage board, administrative organisation or museum. Other employment possibilities include those within landscape management and conservation, creating exhibitions, as a nature/heritage guide or museum curator or for furthering your research career.
The programme also prepares you for working with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and various laboratory processes. With these skills other potential workplaces include administrative organisations, land survey agencies and forestry or conservation agencies. The degree is also highly appropriate for building a career in landscape archaeology, environmental archaeology, paleoecology, Quaternary science or similar research fields. You will also be eligible to apply for PhD studentships in archaeology, environmental archaeology and related subjects.
Watch the interview with Claudia Sciuto, PhD student in Environmental Archaeology at Umeå University.
During the degree you will develop your capacity for independent thinking and scientific writing – essential skills for moving on to a career in research. After having read the Master's degree in Landscape Archaeology/Environmental Archaeology, you will be eligible to apply for PhD positions in archaeology or environmental archaeology in Sweden and internationally.
Can I study this programme remotely (as online courses)?
No. Study takes place on campus in Umeå with scheduled lectures, laboratory practicals, field studies, examinations and compulsory modules.Close
Can I start studying in the autumn or spring term?
The programme only has an autumn intake.Close
Can I study this degree part-time?
No, it is only offered as a two-year full time study programme.Close
Can I accredit points from previous courses?
Yes, evaluation of previous courses in ecology, Quaternary science, or equivalent, is performed on an individual basis. You may also be able to accredit points from other relevant subjects, after evaluation, as your second year elective courses.Close
Can I study abroad within the programme?
Yes, after discussion with the director of the programme, and primarily during year two.Close
What does the job market look like for graduates of this programme?
There is significant competition for jobs within archaeology and a Master's degree can give you a competitive advantage. It may also advisable to broaden your education during the degree by reading subjects such as pedagogy, anthropology, history or journalism to widen your range of skills.[PIB2] You should also be prepared to move within Sweden or internationally in order to increase your chances of finding a job that suits you.
Our Master's programme is held in high regard internationally and many of our previous students work or are researchers abroad, including the UK, Norway and Denmark. A Master's degree also makes you eligible to apply for PhD positions in archaeology or environmental archaeology in Sweden and internationally.