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Programme syllabus:

Master's Programme in Environmental Archaeology, 120 Credits

Swedish name: Masterprogram i Miljöarkeologi

This programme syllabus is valid: HT15 and until further notice

Programme code: HAMAM

Credit points: 120

Registration number: 511-1940-10

Responsible faculty: Faculty of Art

Revised by: Faculty of arts, 2014-10-28

Entry Requirements

A bachelors degree or equivalent within archaeology, environmental archaeology, Quaternary geology, physical geography or comparable major, or equivalent. Proficiency in English equivalent to Swedish upper secondary course English A/5. Where the language of instruction is Swedish, applicants must prove proficiency in Swedish to the level required for basic eligibility for higher studies.


Degree of Master or Arts. The degree is issued in environmental archaeology.

Description of the education for current education cycle

Chapter 1, Section 9 of the Higher Education Act:
Advanced university education shall essentially build upon the knowledge students have acquired during their basic university education or on equivalent knowledge.
Advanced university education shall further develop the students' knowledge, skills and abilities acquired at the basic university education level and shall also:

  • further develop the students' ability to independently integrate and use knowledge,
  • develop the students' ability to handle complex phenomena, problems and situations, and
  • develop students' abilities for professional activity which make great demands on independence, or for research and development work

National goals for current degree

Knowledge and understanding
For a Degree of Master (120 credits) the student shall

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding in the main field of study, including both broad knowledge of the field and a considerable degree of specialised knowledge in certain areas of the field as well as insight into current research and development work, and
  • demonstrate specialised methodological knowledge in the main field of study.

Competence and skills
For a Degree of Master (120 credits) the student shall

  • demonstrate the ability to critically and systematically integrate knowledge and analyse, assess and deal with complex phenomena, issues and situations even with limited information
  • demonstrate the ability to identify and formulate issues critically, autonomously and creatively as well as to plan and, using appropriate methods, undertake advanced tasks within predetermined time frames and so contribute to the formation of knowledge as well as the ability to evaluate this work
  • demonstrate the ability in speech and writing both nationally and internationally to clearly report and discuss his or her conclusions and the knowledge and arguments on which they are based in dialogue with different audiences, and
  • demonstrate the skills required for participation in research and development work or autonomous employment in some other qualified capacity.

Judgement and approach
For a Degree of Master (120 credits) the student shall

  • demonstrate the ability to make assessments in the main field of study informed by relevant disciplinary, social and ethical issues and also to demonstrate awareness of ethical aspects of research and development work
  • demonstrate insight into the possibilities and limitations of research, its role in society and the responsibility of the individual for how it is used, and
  • demonstrate the ability to identify the personal need for further knowledge and take responsibility for his or her ongoing learning.

Local goals for current degree

To be granted a Master's Degree in Environmental Archaeology at Umeå University, in addition to the National goals the student must:
Knowledge and understanding

  • have a sound knowledge of theories, sources and methods relevant to environmental archaeology.
  • be able to relate environmental archaeological scientific method to other scientific traditions.
  • be able to place environmental archaeological research in its historical context.

Proficiency and aptitude

  • be able to manage, analyse and critically review large and diverse sources.
  • have demonstrated the ability to make oral, graphical and written presentations of their own and others' research orientated towards a variety of audiences.
  • be able to integrate scientific and humanistic approaches in a project to increase his or her effectiveness as a contract archaeologist or scientist
  • be able to actively participate in current debates on environmental archaeology in archaeological research and consultancy.
  • be able to critically appraise popular beliefs about the past, with particular focus on past environmental and climatic change.

Ability to assess and approach

  • have demonstrated source critical thinking.
  • have demonstrated the ability to define and solve problems as well as an interdisciplinary approach towards environmental archaeology.
  • have a working knowledge of relevant current research.

Examination format

Details of examination procedures and forms can be found in the individual course curricula.


Grades are awarded for each course and where applicable are also assessed also for parts of a course. Grading takes place when all examinations and all compulsory elements, such as laboratory experiments, project reports and written assignments have been approved. Unless otherwise specified in the course syllabus, the grades Fail, Pass or Pass with Credit are awarded. If you have already achieved a Pass grade, it is not permitted to resit an examination to acquire a higher grade.

Transfer of Credits

The student has the right to have a previous course, degree or activity assessed for approval in the form of an academic credit transfer. For further information, see the Higher Education Ordinance, Chapter 6, Sections 6-8 (http://www.uhr.se/sv/Information-in-English/Laws-and-regulations/The-Higher-Education-Ordinance/ ) and student information website (http://www.umu.se/english/education/student-handbook).


This program is relevant for those wishing to:

  • build a career in environmental archaeology, palaeoecology, Quaternary geology or other similar scientific subjects where a knowledge and understanding of past environments, climates and human activities is of use.
  • complement previous training with a strong skills set for excavation, analysis, interpretation and presentation of archaeological and environmental archaeological data.
  • learn transferable skills applicable to a wide variety of lab based, quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • understand environmental and climate change from a long term perspective, and understand how such change relates to the sustainability of societies.

Degree structure
The Masters degree programme is highly problem-solution oriented with an emphasis on the learning of transferable skills, through their application in environmental archaeology, that can be used in a professional or research career.
The degree can be read in its entirety in English.
In year 1 students follow five core courses (60 credits), including a Magister thesis (15 credits) that may be used as part of a Magister qualification (one year Master's degree).
In year 2, students follow a 30 credit core course (Master thesis) and select one of two paths that either allow them to go deeper into a particular set of methods (15 credits) and choose optional/elective courses (15 credits); or choose 30 credits of optional/elective courses. Students may choose to take an internship amounting to 15 credits. The student is expected to be actively involved in the planning of and search for a suitable internship position.

Program outline

Environmental archaeology -  field and laboratory methods - 15 credits
Module 1. Field methods in environmental archaeology
Module 2. Laboratory methods

Environmental archaeology - advanced study in theory and methodology - 15 credits
Module 1. Theory and history of environmental archaeology research
Module 2. Methodology and case studies

GIS for environmental archaeology and archaeology - 7.5 credits
Environmental archaeology - advanced study in theory and methodology II - 7,5 credits

Magister thesis - 15 credits


Specialist path Generalist path
E.g. archaeobotany, geoarchaeology, palaeoentomology, palynology, digital environmental archaeology  
Optional/elective courses - 15 credits
External (see right) or internal in environmental archaeology; or internship/work placement

Methodological specialisation - 15 credits
Detailed studies in a (few) method(s)
(insects/pollen/macrofossils/ geoarchaeology...) as independent work
Optional/elective courses - 30 credits
Either outside of or within environmental archaeology, and/or internship/work placement. Example courses:
Quaternary geology/palaeoecology
Geology/Earth Sciences
Statistics/Advanced GIS/Biostatistics
Project management/planning

Master thesis - 30 credits

Core courses
The following are mandatory core courses within the programme:

Environmental archaeology - field and laboratory methods 15 credits
Environmental archaeology - advanced study in theory and methodology 15 credits
GIS for environmental archaeology and archaeology 7,5 credits
Environmental archaeology - advanced study in theory and methodology II 7,5 credits
Magister thesis in environmental archaeology 15 credits
Master thesis in environmental archaeology 30 credits

Students aiming to acquire a Magister (one year Master's) degree may do so after year 1. The Magister thesis (15 credits) will count as the Magister dissertation.

The Master's degree qualification requires a total of at least 30 credits of project or dissertation/thesis work. Students wishing to write their Master thesis within the specialist path are required to take 15 credits of methodological specialisation (specialist path, see above) beforehand or otherwise demonstrate the required skills.

Teaching consists mainly of tutorials, seminars and exercises.

Elective courses
The following are elective courses within the programme:

Practical training in environmental archaeology 15 credits
Environmental archaeology - methodological specialisation 15 credits

Work placement and internships (within the course Practical training in environmental archaeology) must be arranged by the students themselves.

Optional courses
Students may read up to 30 credits of optional courses within the framework of the programme. These courses may be taken at either Umeå University or other universities, and can be used to tailor the student's education to their specific interests or requirements.
Degree project/Independent project
For a Masters degree students must have completed the equivalent of an independent project (degree project/thesis) of at least 30 credits in their main field of study. This work may comprise of less than 30 credits, but no less than 15 credits, if the student has already completed an advanced level independent project of at least 15 credits in the main field of study (or equivalent).

Deferment of studies

Deferral of commencement of study may be granted if there are special reasons for doing so, for example: illness, military service, pregnancy, care of children or other nursing responsibilities etc. Your application should be sent in writing to Student Services http://www.studentcentrum.umu.se/. A negative decision on deferral of commencement of study may be appealed to the Higher Education Appeals Board.

Approved leave from studies

Students who leave the study programme must notify the programme study guidance officer of the interruption of studies.


A negative decision on being allowed to resume studies after a break in study may be appealed to the Higher Education Appeals Board.


In order to continue on to year 2, students must have completed at least 30 programme credits by the start of the second year.