MA in Archaeology: Stonehenge and the First Britons

Entry requirements:  
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.

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

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Maria Floyd

Humanities Research Institute Admissions Assistant (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 MPhil/DPhil level with the University. All of our students’ work will be published by Peter Lang in 2016. 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 20,000 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.


This is a London-based course. The seminars will be held in the University of Buckingham’s London offices in Bloomsbury: 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ. The nearest London Underground Stations are Euston Square and Russell Square.

Part One: Fieldwork: Site visits and Excavations

There will be an opportunity to take part in two field trips each term, taking place over a long weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 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 take place in late March and in October 2017, and 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 weekend, 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.

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. There will be a buffet dinner at the end of each seminar. The seminars will be held in the University of Buckingham’s London offices in Bloomsbury: 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ.  They are expected to include:

  • Professor David Jacques (University of Buckingham) – course introduction, and Tom Lyons – fieldwork introduction
  • Professor David Jacques (University of Buckingham) – “The post-glacial occupation of Salisbury Plain” (the focus will be on recent excavations of the Mesolithic site at Blick Mead, Vespasian’s Camp)
  • Professor Graeme Davis (University of Buckingham) – writing a good MA dissertation
  • Dr Barry Bishop (Lithics Society) – “The development of prehistoric flint-work in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site – changing uses and influences from the Mesolithic to Bronze Age”
  • Dr Nick James (University of Cambridge / University of Buckingham) – “Reading the land: Landscape archaeology”
  • Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy (Durham University) –  “Faunal analysis” (TBC)
  • Professor Nick Branch (Reading University) – “Environmental science and Stonehenge” (TBC)
  • Dr Mark Bowden (Historic England) – “Surveying Stonehenge – new discoveries” (TBC)
  • Dr Nick James, Professor David Jacques, Professor Graeme Davis – Recording and data analysis – field survey, object identification, use of library and archival sources including JSTOR, the Historic Environment Record and Portable Antiquities Scheme databases, statistical analysis for archaeologists, interpretation of aerial photograph and satellite imagery
  • Professor Graeme Davis (University of Buckingham), Professor David Jacques (University of Buckingham) and Dr Nick James (University of Buckingham) – Dissertation workshop
  • Julian Richards (Archaemedia) – “Digging time at Stonehenge”
  • Professor Graeme Davis, Professor David Jacques, Dr Nick James – Dissertation workshop: Writing up and the production of archaeological knowledge; guidelines for writing a successful dissertation
  • Professor David Jacques, Professor Graeme Davis, Dr Nick James – Dissertation workshop


The MA degree is awarded on the basis of the dissertation, which should be no fewer than 20,000 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)

Graduate employment

We have a high graduate employment rate, The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) ranked Buckingham top for graduate employability with 98.1% in July 2015.

Our graduate prospects are excellentOur graduates have gone on to further study at most of the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, London, Oxford and Cambridge and secured jobs in senior positions around the world. Among our alumni we have a graduate who became the head of his country’s civil service and one who became a leading Formula One motor-racing driver. Another secured a position as the Minister of Sabah and one female law graduate became the first British lawyer to become a French Advocate.

The tuition fees quoted are for the degree (e.g. if you start a degree at Buckingham in January 2017, you will pay the same termly fee for the duration of your degree – you will not be affected by the price increase in September 2017). Fees are normally paid in termly instalments.

Postgraduate loan scheme

A new system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK was introduced from 1 August 2016 with support from the UK Government. The loan will provide up to £10,000 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 >>

Postgraduate first class scholarship

From July 2015 a first class scholarship is available to both home and international students following a taught postgraduate degree at the University. The scholarship will reduce tuition fees by 33%. The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who already have a first class honours degree that is recognised to UK standard.

Details of other 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.