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Ancient Civilisations (MA)

The MA in Ancient Civilisations is a unique programme, which is available both on campus and as a distance learning degree.

This offers students interested the ancient world the opportunity to study various aspects of the history, archaeology, and culture of diverse ancient civilisations from ancient Egypt to Mesopotamia, from Classical Greece and Rome to ancient China, from the Bronze Age Aegean to the Celts of western Europe.


You can apply directly to the University using the Apply Now button at the top of the page. 

Request Information
Contact Name: Dr Angus M Slater

Tuition Fees 2023/24:
Home: £7,800
Overseas (distance/online): £10,400
Overseas (on-campus): £15,000
Fees are for the whole course

Why choose this course?

  1. If you would like to learn more about the archaeology, history and religion of diverse cultures of the ancient world beyond Greece and Rome, this programme is ideal for you.
  2. You’ll be able to choose from a wide range of topics taught by experienced university lecturers who are specialists in their fields.
  3. Flexibility in learning: the MA is available both on campus and as a distance learning course. You can choose to study from the comfort of your own home using our VLE (virtual learning environment) and the course content and reading material we provide or in a more traditional classroom environment (also supported by VLE).
  4. You’ll have the opportunity to explore ancient Egyptian religion, the Neolithic and Bronze Age of the Near East, Chinese religion, the Celts, the art of Mesopotamia and the Near East, as well as the important civilisations of Greece and Rome, and will learn how to debate various interpretations of the past that have been put forward by archaeologists, ancient historians, and other scholars.
  5. You’ll gain research skills which will be a sound basis for further study, as well as a range of important skills which can be easily transferred to the workplace.

What you will learn

Course Overview

This unique multidisciplinary masters degree allows students to study a wide variety of subjects drawing from the following fields: Near Eastern and Aegean Archaeology, Ancient History, Egyptology, Celtic Studies, Chinese Studies, the Old Testament, gender studies, religion, and iconography.

No previous knowledge of the ancient world is required for this programme, drawing as it does from a variety of different disciplines and intellectual approaches.

Module Topics

Part I (PG Cert, PG Dip & MA)

Spaces, Places and Objects in Ancient Mediterranean Religions (30 credits; compulsory)

This module examines archaeological evidence for cult practices and religious activity in the ancient Mediterranean, drawing upon case studies from the Neolithic in the Near East through to Bronze Age Aegean, Cyprus and the Levant. Students interrogate the materiality of cult spaces and objects to interpret how an integrated approach to space and object can lead to a reconstruction of ceremonial cult practices.

Ancient Egyptian Religion (30 credits; optional)*

This module provides students with an in-depth understanding of the theory and practice of ancient Egyptian religion and magic. The module uses both material culture and textual sources from the Naqada Period until the end of the Roman era (4000 BC – AD 400). to develop a critically informed understanding of the complex interrelationship between ancient Egyptian religious thought and other aspects of ancient Egyptian society.

Art and Representation in the Ancient Near East (30 credits; optional)

This module explores ancient art from Mesopotamia to the Aegean. It enables students to critically evaluate how ancient societies perceived of and presented themselves and their environment in a variety of art forms and how these images are received and represented in the modern world. It draws upon art historical and anthropological definitions and interpretations of art.

Religions in China, 1500 BCE – 500 CE (30 credits; optional)

This module examines ancient Chinese religion as a social, political, and spiritual force within the fabric of the ancient Chinese state and society. Students explore key themes and concepts in the study of ancient and medieval Chinese religion using Chinese texts in English translation. The aim is for students to develop a sophisticated understanding of ancient Chinese religion and its philosophical underpinnings.

Life in the Eastern Desert of Egypt (30 credits; optional)

This module considers the conditions of people, living, working and travelling through the Eastern Desert of Egypt (indigenous populations, travellers and the military. The module draws upon archaeological, textual and visual evidence.

Rome and the Indian Ocean: The Classical World in a Global Context (30 credits; optional)

This module explores Graeco-Roman engagement with the wider Afro-Eurasian world, looking at economic and cross-cultural exchange, transcultural adaptations, diplomatic contact, and the impact of wider world events on the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean. The module draws upon a wide range of sources (literary, epigraphic, archaeological, and iconography) to enable students to critically evaluate the cultural, religious, political, diplomatic, context of these exchanges.

Celtic Sanctity, Spirituality and Hagiography (30 credits; optional)

In this module, students will briefly consider the pre-Christian background to Celtic spirituality and the concept of the ‘druid’; consider the coming of Christianity to Wales and Ireland and be encouraged to critically evaluate the notion of ‘Celtic Christianity’; trace the development of hagiography as a genre and consider the evidence for a number of saints’ cults in the Celtic regions examining sources such as saints’ Lives, medieval poetry, holy wells and church dedications, folklore and oral traditions.

From Patriarchs to Prophets: Reading and Reception (30 credits; optional)

This module enable students to acquire a detailed knowledge of the patriarchs and prophetic literature as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible and other Second Temple literature (including the Dead Sea Scrolls). The module provides students with the exegetical tools necessary to engage critically with the portrayal of the patriarchs as constructed in the Book of Genesis, and the construction of prophets in prophetic literature and considers the visual or literary representation of the patriarchs and prophets.

Introduction to Digital Humanities (30 credits; optional)

This module is a practical skills-based module. It engages with new forms of historical enquiry supported by emerging digital humanities. Students will acquire basic skills in programming, web design, database construction and XML. In exploring the design, creation, management and use of digital resources in the humanities students will interrogate the potential usefulness and limitations in historical research.

Work Placement (30 credits; optional)

This module gives students the opportunity to work in the heritage/museum (and related) industry for up to 4 weeks. Students develop a critical understanding of work-related issues and an awareness of professional standards and make a valid contribution to the aims, objectives or of the organisation or practitioner concerned.

Screening the Past: Film and History – Ancient, Medieval, Modern (30 credits; optional)

Film is one of the staples of modern culture, from indie productions to Hollywood blockbusters. In this module, you will explore how film has dealt with historical topics, covering films from silent film to today on different historical periods, figures and events.

The History and Culture of Late Antiquity (30 credits; optional)

On the cusp between the ancient and medieval worlds, Late Antiquity is a period full of contradictions. The module explores the political, social and cultural changes in this period, and their effects on literature and art.

Myth in Greek and Roman Epic (30 credits; optional)

Myth was an essential part of the way that the Greeks and the Romans perceived themselves and the world around them. In this module, you will study how mythology is presented in the greatest of literary genres: epic poetry. The module covers poets and works from Homer to Late Antiquity, including the epyllion.

Unravelling Heritage History, Theory and Methods (30 credits; optional)

This module enables students to explore the connections between Heritage activity and the political, legal and institutional contexts in which it is undertaken and to investigate how the past is conceived and represented in (and by) various Heritage agencies and providers. The module covers various methodologies, approaches and ethical issues faced in Heritage Studies and provides a critical understanding of the political, legal and institutional frameworks within which Heritage is conceived and practised.

Religious Change and Resilience: The case study of Amarna (30 credits; optional)*

This module introduces the ancient Egyptian religious system and its connections with other areas of life in ancient Egypt. You will develop your knowledge of religious change and resilience within the context of the Amarna Period of the Egyptian New Kingdom. Topics include the definition of divine kingship, the Aten cult, and the art and architecture of the Amarna Period as well as the role of private religion and personal piety. 

Part II (MA)

MA Dissertation Ancient Civilisations (60 credits; compulsory)

In Part Two, students are given the opportunity to research in detail a topic which has particularly appealed to them and write an extended dissertation (for 60 credits). They will be allocated a supervisor to help guide them through their dissertations.

* These modules alternate with each other on an annual basis. 


The modules are assessed by a variety of assessment methods: short essays (2,500 words), longer essays (4,000-5,000 words), object analyses, comparative analyses, short assignments, oral assessments and one 15-000-word dissertation.

Key Information

Entry Criteria

Applicants are expected to have a good first degree (a first or upper second), although every application is considered in its own merit, so places may be offered on the basis of professional qualification and relevant experiences.

Candidates with a lower degree classification or no degree may be admitted at Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma level, with an opportunity to upgrade to Master’s level if satisfactory progress is made.

Career Opportunities

This programme is ideal for those who want to learn more about the ancient world, but there are also some more practical module choices to help students improve their job prospects.

Many of the students who undertake the course on a part-time basis are already in employment and wish to gain a postgraduate qualification as a possible means to promotion or change of job role.

Former students include journalists, writers, storytellers, teachers, lecturers, editors and people who work in the tourist or heritage industries.

Additional Costs

Students may spend up to £300 per year on books and additional related materials.

Bursary / Scholarship Information

You may be eligible for funding to help support your study. To find out about scholarships, bursaries and other funding opportunities that are available please visit our Bursaries and Scholarships section.

Further Information

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions related to the University or to this course in particular.