MA in Archaeology

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Archaeology is a global discipline in which a comparative perspective is brought to bear on all types of material culture in the pursuit of understanding people of the distant and recent past. To this end BU Archaeology provides education and training in the recovery, analysis, and interpretation of the material remains of the human past, including the application of scientific techniques, as well as the study of archaeological heritage.

This document explains procedures and requirements for graduate students seeking the MA degree in Archaeology at Boston University. For the Graduate School’s requirements, students should consult the GRS Bulletin (

Questions concerning admission, as well as the academic program, policies, regulations, financial aid, petitions, or grievances should be addressed to the Director of Graduate Studies, who represents the Graduate Studies Committee.

Applicants must have a BA or BS degree, with sufficient course work in archaeology, anthropology, art history, classical studies or other related fields, and/or significant field and/or laboratory experience in archaeology. The graduate program requires demonstration of reading proficiency in one modern foreign language by the end of the second semester. Applicants intending to concentrate in Classical or Near Eastern Archaeology should have proficiency equivalent to at least four semesters of at least one ancient language at the time of application. Work towards the fulfillment of this requirement is among those criteria reviewed when applications are evaluated.

Initial Registration

During the registration period preceding the first semester of study, each incoming student will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies. After this initial meeting, a selection of courses for the first semester will be made and the necessary registration forms filled in.

Advisory Committee and Program of Study

All students must form an advisory committee which shall comprise two members of the Department of Archaeology graduate faculty. The student is responsible for working with his or her advisory committee to craft a program of study. Students in the MA program must form a committee by the eighth week of their first semester. The student is responsible for submitting the names of their advisory committee members to the Director of Graduate Studies. One of these members should be named as the student’s advisor of record.

The student should work with his/her advisory committee to craft a full program of study. The program should propose how the student plans to complete all course requirements as well as outline a Master’s project. Students in the MA program must submit the program of study by the end of their first semester. The program of study will then be reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee for approval. Once approved, it will be entered in the student’s file.

This program may be changed subject to approval of the student’s advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Studies. All such modifications must be finalized in writing in order that no misunderstandings arise.

In planning their program of study, students and their advisors should be attentive to upcoming faculty leaves and to projected course-scheduling (e.g., noting that not all survey courses, in particular, are offered every year). Students are responsible for maintaining regular contact and communication with their advisors. Every spring the full faculty will meet to review and evaluate graduate student progress. A student’s continuation in the program is contingent upon satisfactory progress.

Program Requirements
GRS requirements stipulate that Master’s students must have completed 32 credit hours of instruction at the graduate level. The Archaeology Program requires that these hours include four specific courses: AR 891 (Contemporary Theory), AR 892 (Archaeological Ethics), AR 893 (World Archaeology), and AR 894 (Scientific Methods in Archaeology). Beyond these specific required courses, students must complete the equivalent of four credit hours of directed archaeological laboratory or field work.

Foreign Language

Reading proficiency of one modern foreign language must be demonstrated by the end of the second semester. In the program of study, the specific language and the mode for demonstrating proficiency must be detailed. Modern language courses may not be counted toward the fulfillment of the 32 required credit hours.

The language requirement is fulfilled by successfully completing a graduate reading course offered through a department at Boston University or by a written translation examination prepared by faculty members. Foreign language exams within the program are arranged in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Master’s Project

The Master’s project will consist of a substantial piece of research and writing. There is no specific format and style; both will depend on the nature of the project. Students must work with their Advisory Committee to craft a project prospectus. An initial prospectus must be included in the student’s program of study. The final prospectus must be approved by the Advisory Committee and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for review by the Graduate Studies Committee by the eighth week of the student’s second semester in the program. The final version of the Master’s project must be approved by the Advisory Committee no later than week 13 of the semester in which the student intends to graduate, and such approval must be indicated to the Director of Graduate Studies at that time in order for the student to graduate.

International Students

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as evidence of English proficiency. Students who are most competitive for admission will have a composite score of at least 90-100 and minimum scores of 21 in each section (4 sections; reading, writing, listening, and speaking).  Indicate on the TOEFL registration form that you want your test results sent directly to Boston University.  The TOEFL code for Boston University is 3087.

International applicants additional admissions information here.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

The granting of an MA will indicate that the student has demonstrated the following:

  • mastery of the subject material;
  • the ability to produce and defend an original contribution to knowledge;
  • the ability to conduct scholarly activities in an ethical manner.

The following achievements are required to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress:

End of First Year

  • By end of first semester: Formed Advisory Committee and submitted a full program of study.
  • Completed core courses AR 891, 892, 893, and 894, each with a grade of B or better.
  • Passed reading proficiency test in one modern foreign language.
  • Completed a season of at least five weeks of archaeological field or laboratory work.
  • Master’s project prospectus approved by Advisory Committee and DGS.

End of Second Year

  • Completed Master’s project.

Time Limits

By University regulations, the MA program must be completed within three (3) years of the initial registration for the degree.  Graduate School Master’s Graduation Procedures and Deadlines.