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Master's studentship opportunity – University of Reading

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  • Highways England Studentships in Archaeology

Master's studentship opportunity

MA ARCHAEOLOGY - University of Reading and MOLA Headland Infrastructure, funded by Highways England.

An examination into the morphology of Iron Age and Romano-British livestock using selected faunal data found during excavations on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

Full time: 15 months

Start date: July 2021

Highways England are funding a Masters Studentship in Archaeology, to be run by the University of Reading in conjunction with MOLA-Headland Infrastructure (MHI). This Studentship will utilise the material excavated during MHI's archaeological excavations on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme. The results from the Master's dissertation will form part of the larger A14 analysis programme currently being undertaken.

This Masters Studentship will focus on the use of geometric morphometric (GMM) in the study of the animal bones from the A14 excavations. GMM is a developing field which is being used, amongst other things, to differentiate sheep/goat and to chart variation in the size and form of livestock breeds. Changes in morphology may be due to the stature of the animal and/or be genetically determined by the breed, and in turn may reflect shifts in livestock management practices and/or the importation of new breeds.

The student will spend the first 12 weeks of their programme (July-September 2021) on a placement with MHI specialists based partly at Headland's Hereford office (Unit 1, Clearview Court, Twyford Rd, Hereford, HR2 6JR), working principally with environmental manager Dr Michael Wallace. The student will receive an introduction to archaeozoological GMM and the A14 animal bone assemblage and collect primary GMM data from a selected assemblage of A14 bone from Iron Age and Roman contexts. There will also be opportunities to learn about other aspects of commercial archaeology in Hereford and other MHI offices, including digital survey, graphics, finds and environmental processing, and communications and outreach.

The student will then join the University of Reading full-time MA Archaeology programme, starting 27th September 2021. Here, they will gain an effective grounding in archaeological practice and research, with the opportunity to study a suite of thematic and skills-based modules from prehistory to the medieval period (see Modules via the course link below).

The dissertation element of the Master's programme will focus on the analysis and interpretation of GMM data to explore morphological variation across the selected A14 animal bone assemblage. This will complement and expand upon traditional archaeozoological and stable isotope methods to broaden the scope of A14 animal bone analysis.

This will involve:

  • The collection of GMM data from selected bones from Iron Age and Roman contexts that have been identified to species and are in good condition. This includes digital photography, homologous landmark placement, morphometric study (e.g. generalized Procrustes analysis) and data interrogation and visualisation (e.g. principal component analysis) - full training to be provided.
  • Identification of chronological trends in the size and shape of animal bones.
  • Investigation of potential explanatory factors: livestock mobility, dietary health, sexual dimorphism, genetic/breed diversity and environmental factors.
  • Determine the timing and abruptness of changes in livestock morphology (if any) associated with the Roman conquest of Britain.
  • Contribution to the development of methods and standards for archaeozoological GMM.
    Assessment of the research potential of GMM analysis of animal remains from commercial excavations and contribute to discussions on future best practice.

This dissertation will be jointly supervised by Dr Michael Wallace of Headland Archaeology and Dr Aleks Pluskowski from the University of Reading.

University of Reading - Department of Archaeology

The Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading has an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research and is ranked in the top ten UK universities for Archaeology (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020). The department has access to advanced facilities including fully equipped and dedicated laboratories for human skeletal remains and animal bone analysis, stable isotope analysis, microscopic suite (CAF) and an MA study room. Our analytical suite is extensive, allowing students to access a range of techniques for their research projects.

Research in Archaeology is nurtured by dynamic research clusters. These clusters provide an interdisciplinary environment for advancing social and scientific approaches to past communities and environments as well as issues of fundamental significance, including environmental change, health, diet, social diversity and inclusivity, and cultural heritage. We benefit from excellent resources for both humanities-based and science-based archaeological research and have strong research links and collaborations with departments across the University and external institutions.

MOLA Headland Infrastructure and the A14

MOLA Headland Infrastructure is a consortium of two of the largest and most successful archaeological companies in the UK - Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and Headland Archaeology (UK) Ltd. The consortium was specifically established to support large infrastructure projects, by bringing together experience and capacity.

The A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Road Improvement Scheme is one of the largest commercial archaeological excavations ever undertaken. Over 40 separate archaeological sites, covering c.250ha, were excavated over a period of two years. Archaeological remains from all periods were uncovered, including mammoths and woolly rhinos, Neolithic henges, Bronze Age barrows, Iron Age farmsteads, Roman settlements and pottery kilns, Saxon settlements, and a deserted medieval village. The Post-Excavation Assessment and Updated Project Design has been submitted, and the main analysis phase has just started and will run until 2023.

You can read more about the improvement scheme here

Entry requirements

  • First class honours degree (or equivalent from a university outside the UK) in archaeology, ideally with a specialism in environmental archaeology/zooarchaeology.
  • Three months relevant practical experience, ideally fieldwork experience or hands-on work with archaeozoological assemblages, is highly desirable but not essential.
  • Experience of working with ecofacts and ideally animal bone (in UG dissertation or during fieldwork)
  • Numeracy/willingness to use statistical programmes.


 Compulsory modules  (100 credits)

  • Dissertation (which includes Statistical Analysis)
  • Theoretical Approaches in Archaeology
  • Preparation for Individual Research
  • Issues and Debates in Bioarchaeology 


Optional modules (80 credits)

  • Our Closest Cousins OR Edge of the Pleistocene World
  • Themes and Approaches in the Study of Mesopotamia
  • Village to Metropolis: understanding the urban phenomena of ancient Rome
  • Viking Interactions in the West OR Dark Age Societies AD 400-1000 
  • Heritage and Cultural Property
  • Material Culture Studies and identities in the Roman Empire
  • Applications of Micromorphological Analysis 
  • Analysis of Human Remains 
  • Science and the Dead

Find out more about the MA Archaeology modules 

Please note that all modules are subject to change.


This Master's Studentship is being funded by Highways England.


  • Tuition fees for new UK/Republic of Ireland students (£7,735 per year).
  • £5,000 during 12-week placement.
  • £11,500 stipend over duration of master's programme (paid in three installments).

Not Covered:

  • Any additional expenses required (living expenses, travel expenses).

How to apply

To be considered for this Masters Studentship you first need to submit an application for the full-time MA Archaeology programme and receive an offer. You will then be eligible to apply for the Masters Studentship.

All eligible applications for the Masters Studentships received by 1 May 2021 will be considered.


If you have any questions about this master's programme, please contact Professor Mary Lewis via

See the full studentship terms and conditions


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