MA in Archaeology: Stonehenge and the First Britons

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Full or Part-time: Full-time
School: School of Humanities Back to course finder

The University of Buckingham has introduced as part of its London-based Programmes a new research MA in Archaeology: Stonehenge and the First Britons which offers a unique opportunity to study the subject of archaeology and the celebrated site.

The World Heritage Site of Stonehenge has intrigued scholars for centuries, with each succeeding generation learning more about the site and its setting, among the other henges and richly furnished burial barrows located on Salisbury Plain.

This groundbreaking London-based programme is led by Professor David Jacques, director of the internationally significant excavations at Blick Mead and Vespasian’s Camp, near Stonehenge, and supported by the latest generation of archaeologists to work in the area. Located just over 2km from Stonehenge, the Blick Mead site is providing new evidence of the first humans to occupy the Stonehenge landscape during the Mesolithic period (7960-4041 cal BC). Tantalising new evidence from these excavations suggests that this site may begin to explain why Stonehenge was built where it was.

This programme will provide opportunities for students to take part in fieldwork at the site, as well as visit the archaeological sites in the Stonehenge landscape.

The programme runs from October to September and will consist of a series of ten research seminars. These are supplemented by two optional three-day weekend field trips, each of which combines visits to major archaeological sites with first-hand fieldwork at Blick Mead and Vespasian’s Camp, and two dissertation workshops. Examination will be by original dissertation of no less than 20,000 words.

BBC and ITV video clips about the Buckingham dig’s latest findings at Stonehenge:

Blick Mead: Fresh Discoveries and New Perspectives on the Early Establishment of the Stonehenge Landscape

An archaeological team from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute has, for the first time, been uncovering large amounts of Mesolithic material from a site within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Blick Mead, about 2km from the famous stone circle, has so far yielded over 35,000 pieces of worked flint and burnt flint, as well as over 2,000 pieces of bone from Mesolithic contexts. Many of the stone tools discovered are in sharp condition, indicating little movement from a time when Britain was still part of Europe to when it became Britain for the first time, around 5500 BC. Seventeen radio carbon dates indicate the site as being ‘visited’ between 7916-4041 cal BC, making it the longest used area in Great Britain.

Stonehenge 2016

A significant consequence of the excavations is the way in which the team has discovered whereabouts the communities who built the first monuments at Stonehenge (c. 8500-6700 BC) lived. The site also provides evidence for ritual activity in later Mesolithic and prehistoric periods, suggesting that a very rare long durée site has been found.

David Jacques, Professorial Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, has been directing the excavations at Vespasian’s Camp in Amesbury, Wiltshire, since 2005. The site’s archaeological potential first came to light as a result of his detailed search of the site’s estate and nearby farm records. Previously, the site had been largely ignored by archaeologists, the assumption being that any archaeology there had been destroyed by the landscaping of the area during the 18th century.

Blick Mead 2016-flint
Blick Mead is of great historical interest as it potentially provides a ‘missing link’ between the late Mesolithic, early Neolithic periods and the establishment of the early ritual landscape at Stonehenge.

The findings produced by the Buckingham-funded excavations have led experts to describe Blick Mead and Vespasian’s Camp as one of the pivotal places in the early history of the Stonehenge landscape.

Blick Mead 2013-finds

As a result of support from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, further work is planned in the Blick Mead area over the next two years.

David Jacques gave a lecture at Gresham College on 21 September 2016: “‘The Cradle of Stonehenge’? Blick Mead – a Mesolithic Site in the Stonehenge Landscape”.  You can watch it below:

Associate students

For those taking the course as Associate Students, this seminar programme may be enjoyed as a self-contained survey of Stonehenge and its landscape and of British prehistoric archaeology. This status will enable the student to attend the ten research seminars and take a full part in the seminar and buffet dinner discussions, as well as optional field trips, but does not require the submission of written work. Associate Students are not registered for, and do not receive, the MA degree.

Read about David Jacques’s work at Stonehenge

For further details contact:
Humanities Research Admissions on +44 (0)1280 827514

Entry requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is as follows:

  • a first or second-class honours degree from a recognised university or,
  • a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience

Mature students

Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from suitably qualified students. Due to their flexibility, our London-based MAs by research attract a wide variety of applicants from a range of backgrounds, including people in full-time employment and retirees. Our current students range in age from 21 to 75.

International students

We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.

The University is a UKVI Tier 4 Sponsor.

English levels

If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements. If your English levels don’t meet our minimum requirements, you may be interested in applying for our Pre-sessional English Language Foundation Programmes.

Selection process

Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Programme Director.

The Programme Director and the Admissions Assistant would be happy to answer any questions you may have:

Professor David Jacques

Programme Director, MA in Archaeology; Professorial Research Fellow in Archaeology

Read more →

Maria Floyd

Admissions and Marketing Officer, London Programmes

Read more →

Terms and conditions for prospective students

When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the terms and conditions between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the terms and conditions outlined in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the terms and conditions contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting any offer. Read the admissions terms and conditions > >

Quality teaching

We offer high quality, traditional Oxbridge-style teaching, which leads to our degrees being recognised around the world. The standards of degrees and awards are safeguarded by distinguished external examiners – senior academic staff from other universities in the UK – who approve and moderate assessed work. In 2016 six out of our seven students were awarded ‘Distinction’ for their MA dissertations and two have gone on to study at PhD level with the University. All of our students’ work will be published by Peter Lang in 2017. The course has benefited from 100% student retention rates.

High calibre staff

Most of our academic staff teach for three terms out of four, with the remaining term used for research. Because of this, we have no difficulty in attracting high calibre, highly respected lecturers, many of whom also have a background in business or industry and can offer networking opportunities for students. 100% of the students who started the course in 2015 completed it within the allotted study period.

Teaching methods

The research seminar programme has two strands. The first offers a broadly chronological survey of British prehistory, focusing on the internationally important landscape of Salisbury Plain and the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, enabling students to place their own individual research within the broader context of developments in human society and culture since the end of the last Ice Age.

The second strand offers support to students considering how to devise a successful research project, and structure a dissertation. The seminar series complements the students’ individual research projects and dissertations, and at the heart of this MA is the close working relationship between student and supervisor. Dissertations may be either library- or fieldwork-based, and address themselves to any of archaeology’s sub-fields. While the final dissertation topic is chosen by the student and must be an independent work, it is the supervisor who offers advice on refining the topic as necessary, on primary sources, on secondary reading, on research techniques and on writing the final text, which should be no fewer than 25,000 words. Supervisors and students will meet frequently throughout the year – not less than twice a term – and the supervisor is the student’s primary contact for academic advice and support.

The MA is taught by staff from the University of Buckingham, with the participation of a number of renowned scholars who give lectures and lead some of the seminars.

Part One: Fieldwork: Site visits and Excavations

There will be an opportunity to take part in two field trips each term. This element of the course is not compulsory and so will not be assessed, but for those intending to conduct fieldwork of their own, they provide the student with an indispensable introduction to the techniques involved in archaeological fieldwork. The cost of fieldwork transport, subsistence and entrance fees is not included in the course fee. Fieldwork will be centred at the Blick Mead archaeological site, near Stonehenge. Full training will be given in field techniques by David Jacques and two other professional archaeologists, Tom Philips (Oxford Archaeology) and Tom Lyons (British Museum).


During each field trip, students will also have the opportunity to take part in guided tours. Sites visited over the two weekends will include the World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge, and its associated Cursus, Avenue, and barrow fields as well as the site of West Amesbury Henge, Coneybury Anomaly, Durrington Walls and Woodhenge. There will also be an opportunity to visit Avebury, Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow, together with the Amesbury and Avebury Museums and Stonehenge Visitor Centre.

Accommodation in Amesbury will be arranged and each weekend will include a dinner for all those taking part.

The 2017-18 field trips will take place as follows:

Thursday 5 October – Saturday 7 October 2017 – FIELD TRIP 1 (Blick Mead excavation)

Professor David Jacques (University of Buckingham), Dr Nick James (University of Cambridge and University of Buckingham), Tom Phillips (Oxford Archaeology), Tom Lyons (British Museum) and Dr Barry Bishop (University of Buckingham)

Friday 23 March 2018 – Sunday 25 March 2018 – FIELD TRIP 2 (to the Stonehenge landscape)
David Jacques and Nick James

Part Two: Stonehenge and the First Britons: The History, Theories and Practices of Archaeology seminars

The programme includes a series of ten research seminars and two dissertation workshops. The 2017-18 seminar schedule can be found below.

Location: University of Buckingham in London, 51 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 6HJ.

All seminars take place from 18:30 until 20:30 unless otherwise stated.

  • Tuesday 26 September 2017 – Professor David Jacques (University of Buckingham) course introduction, with Tom Lyons (Blick Mead Project Officer) and Professor Graeme Davis (University of Buckingham)
  • Tuesday 17 October 2017 – David Jacques: The post-glacial occupation of Salisbury Plain
  • Tuesday 24 October 2017 – Dr Julian Richards (Stonehenge Riverside Project, Stonehenge Environs Project, BBC “Meet the Ancestors”): Neolithic Monuments: Coneybury, causewayed enclosures, long barrows, the Cursus, early Henges, the first phases of Stonehenge
  • Tuesday 7 November 2017 – Dr Mark Bowden (Senior Archaeological Investigator, Historic England): Bronze and Iron Age: later phases of Stonehenge, round barrows, defended sites ‘hillforts’: Vespasian’s Camp, Danebury and Old Sarum, Roman period
  • Tuesday 14 November 2017 – Professor Vince Gaffney (Anniversary Chair in Landscape Archaeology, University of Bradford): The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project
  • Tuesday 21 November 2017 – Dr Jim Leary (Reading University): Marden, Silbury and Avebury: landscapes and monuments
  • Tuesday 28 November 2017 – Dr Barry Bishop (University of Buckingham): The development of prehistoric flint-work in Wessex – changing uses and influences from the Mesolithic to Bronze Age
  • Tuesday 5 December 2017 – Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy (Durham University): Approaches to evaluating the use of animals in the prehistoric landscape
  • Tuesday 12 December 2017 – Graeme Davis and David Jacques: Devising a viable MA project: examples from different contexts and media
  • Tuesday 9 January 2018 – Professor Nick Branch (Head of Archaeology, Reading University): Changing environments in the Stonehenge area from post-glacial times to the Romano-British period
  • Tuesday 23 January 2018 – Dissertation workshop 1 – Dr Nick James (University of Buckingham and University of Cambridge), Graeme Davis and David Jacques
  • Tuesday 13 February 2018 – Professor Lord Colin Renfrew (University of Cambridge): Stonehenge and the radiocarbon dating revolution (TBC)
  • Tuesday 6 March 2018 – Dissertation workshop 2 – Graeme Davis and David Jacques
  • Tuesday 3 April 2018 – Dissertation workshop 3 – Graeme Davis and David Jacques


The MA degree is awarded on the basis of the dissertation, which should be no fewer than 25,000 words. The supervisor provides advice in identifying and defining a research topic, assisting the student in locating sources and developing approaches to the chosen topic. Supervisors and students meet regularly, and the supervisor is the student’s primary contact for academic advice and support.


Books: general introductions

  • Bowden, M. et al., The Stonehenge Landscape (Historic England, 2015)
  • Cunliffe, B., Britain Begins (OUP, 2013)
  • Darvill, T., Stonehenge: The Biography of a Landscape (Tempus, 2005)
  • Lawson, A., Chalkland: An Archaeology of Stonehenge and its Region (Hobnob, 2006)
  • Parker Pearson, M., Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery (CBA, 2015)
  • Renfrew, C. & P. Bahn, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (Thames and Hudson, 1996)


  • Butler, C., Prehistoric Flintwork (Tempus, 2005)
  • Bradley, R., An Archaeology of Natural Places (Routledge, 2000)
  • Jacques, D. & T. Phillips, “Mesolithic Settlement Near Stonehenge: Excavations at Blick Mead, Vespasian’s Camp” (A.M, 2014), 7-27 (click here)
  • Legge, A. & P. Rowley-Conwy, Star Carr Revisited: A Re-analysis of the large mammals (Birkbeck College, 1998)
  • Jones, A., G. MacGregor et al., Colouring the Past (Berg, 2002)
  • Marshall, S. Avebury: The Essential Guide (History Press, 2016)
  • Rainbird, P. et al., Monuments in the Landscape (Tempus, 2008)
  • Whittle, A., A. Bayliss et al., Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of South Britain and Ireland (Oxbow, 2011)


  • Higgs, E., “The Excavation of a Late Mesolithic Site at Downton near Salisbury, Wiltshire”, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 25 (1959), 209-232
  • French, C. et al., “Durrington Walls to West Amesbury: A Major Transformation of the Holocene Landscape”, Antiquaries Journal 92 (2012), 30
  • Hunter-Mann, K., “Excavations at Vespasian’s Camp Iron Age hillfort”, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Magazine 92 (1999), 39-45
  • Jacques, D., “Have We Underestimated Our Ancestors?”, BBC (2015) (click here)
  • Jacques, D., T. Phillips & T. Lyons., “Return to Blick Mead”, Current Archaeology 293 (2014)

The University’s Course Directors, students’ supervisors, and the Research Officer and Tutor for Graduate Students are available to discuss students’ post-graduation plans and how they may utilise most effectively the skills acquired during their studies.

Please note that the University of Buckingham has four terms per year. The tuition fees quoted are for the degree (e.g. if you start a degree at Buckingham in January 2018, you will pay the same termly fee for the duration of your degree – you will not be affected by the price increase in September 2018). Students will pay the same termly fee for the duration of their studies, unless studies are interrupted and resumed later. The tuition fee quoted is therefore the total cost of the degree.

Please click here for Associate Student fees (or here for international Associate Student fees).

Postgraduate loan scheme

A new system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK was introduced in August 2016 with support from the UK Government. The loan will provide up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. The loans can be used for tuition fees, living expenses or both.  Find out more >>


Details of scholarships can be found on our main Bursaries and Scholarships page. You should make an application to study at the University and receive an offer letter confirming our acceptance of your application before applying for a scholarship.

You may also find it useful to visit our External Funding page.

Due to the mode of study on this course you will not normally need a room in University accommodation during your degree.

However, if you require short-term accommodation in Buckingham we would be happy to provide a list of local bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation. Alternatively, please contact our Accommodation Office for advice.