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Ancient Civilisations (MRes)

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, the Bronze Age Aegean and Neolithic in the Near East to ancient China.


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

Request Information How to Apply
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. An opportunity to develop your own personal research interests in the ancient world.
  2. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the Neolithic and Bronze Age of the Near East, ancient Egyptian religion, Chinese religion, the art of Mesopotamia and the Near East, as well as the Bronze Age Aegean.
  3. You will learn how to interrogate various interpretations of the past that have been put forward by specialists and use these as a framework for you own interpretations.
  4. You’ll gain research skills and in-depth subject knowledge which will provide a sound basis for further postgraduate study at MPhil or PhD
  5. Flexibility in learning: the MRes 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).

What you will learn

Course Overview

The Ancient Civilisations (MRes) offers students whose interests centre on the study of ancient world (Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Bronze Age Aegean and ancient China) the opportunity to take a specialist research-intensive degree tailored to those interests and to pursue their own independent research to a further extent than in an MA.

The MRes is suited for students with a proven penchant for independent research. The MRes includes two taught modules worth a combined 60 credits, but the main focus of the degree is on a longer piece of individual research (30,000 words). Applicants are required to discuss their proposed research with the School before application, and the proposed research must be in one of the areas of supervision offered by the staff from ancient Egypt, the Neolithic Near East and Bronze Age Aegean, Cyprus or Levant, Mesopotamia and ancient China.

The Ancient Civilisations (MRes) begins with a specialist Research Methodology module introducing students to the multiple sources, materials, theories and methodologies for the study of ancient world. Students then have the opportunity to choose one module focusing on an aspect of ancient civilisation of their choice (religion in the Neolithic and Bronze Age East Mediterranean, art from Mesopotamia to the Aegean, Egyptian or Chinese religion). The choice of taught modules gives students not only the opportunity to explore areas that they might not have had the opportunity to study before, but also to specialise in a specific aspect of the ancient world in preparation for the MRes dissertation.

The dissertation is the greater part of the Ancient Civilisations (MRes), as students have the opportunity to conceive and research a topic of their own design of greater length and depth than the MA dissertation.

This enables those students with a greater preference for independent research, and perhaps with a clearer sense at the start of the programme of what they would like to base their research upon, to undertake in-depth research within a structured programme of study. It will also provide students with an excellent introductory pathway into further study at MPhil or PhD level.

Module Topics

The MRes includes two taught modules worth a combined 60 credits (one compulsory; one optional), and the 120 credit module ‘MRes Dissertation (Ancient)’.

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.

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. 

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

MRes Dissertation (Ancient) (120 credits; compulsory)

The main focus of the degree is on a longer piece of individual research (30,000 words). Applicants are required to discuss their proposed research with the University before application, and the proposed research must be in one of the areas of supervision offered by the staff from ancient Egypt, the Neolithic Near East and Bronze Age Aegean, Cyprus or Levant, Mesopotamia and ancient China.

* 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.

The traditional requirement for entry onto a Level 7 programme is a 2.1 or 1st class undergraduate degree. In addition, the School encourages students with an equivalent and appropriate professional qualification or significant and relevant professional experience to apply.

Applicants are required to discuss their proposed research with the Programme Director before application, and the proposed research must be in one of the areas of supervision outlined above.

Proficiency in English of candidates whose first language is not Welsh or English is normally evidenced by a minimum IELTS score (or equivalent) of 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in each component.

Career Opportunities

The programme provides a broad foundation for postgraduate work, by laying particular stress on the methodologies and research tools needed for independent advanced study, thus acting as training for students who intend to undertake an MPhil or PhD.

Additional Costs

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

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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.