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Postgraduate Research 2021

Archaeology & Palaeoecology

School of Natural and Built Environment | MPhil
Entry Year
Academic Year 2021/22
Entry Requirements


By joining Archaeology & Palaeoecology you will become part of a dynamic group of researchers in one of two interdisciplinary Research Clusters: Environmental Change & Resilience (ECR) for more environmentally-related projects, and Culture & Society (C&S) for more humanities-related Archaeology projects.

Projects involving Palaeoecology or Scientific Archaeology focus on themes such as long-term changes and resilience in ecosystems, humans, environments and climate, using approaches such as pollen analysis, tephra dating, dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. Much of our research spans several disciplines – for example projects on the hydrogeology and restoration of bogs.

Research in the C&S cluster explores the material manifestations of culture through time and space. We combine innovative scientific methods with theoretically-informed analyses to understand past human experience, bringing together the humanities and the sciences.

The combination of environmental archaeology, and especially bio-archaeology, with more traditional approaches to the past, helps to differentiate Queen's from most other Archaeology departments and is seen as both a strength and stimulus to future developments.

Archaeology & Palaeoecology Highlights
Career Development
  • The University’s Graduate School provides postgraduate students with a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary hub to support their personal and professional development.
  • Archaeology & Palaeoecology at Queen’s have a long-standing record of inter-disciplinary approaches to understanding the relationship between past humans and their environment. Our alumni are going on to successful careers in academia and beyond.
  • QUB’s Researcher Plus scheme provides PhD and MPhil students with an opportunity to develop skills which are transferable beyond their research degrees, and the Researcher Plus award provides them with official recognition for the skills acquired in addition to their research.
World Class Facilities
  • The School boasts the internationally renowned 14CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment and Chronology that together with our Dendrochronology Laboratory, Stable Isotope Facility and other in-house laboratory facilities helps us understand past societal and environmental issues.
  • The Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF) bolsters the School’s capacity for conducting innovative field research, using the latest technology in geophysical prospection, remote sensing and 3D modelling of archaeological sites and artefacts.
  • The School’s Centre for Geographic Information Science and Geomatics provides cutting-edge infrastructure for research projects involving elements of geospatial analysis.
  • The Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis, likewise situated within the School, lends crucial technical support to research projects across the digital humanities and beyond.
  • The University's Core Technology Units (CTUs) provide researchers and graduate students in Archaeology & Palaeoecology with high-quality training in advanced laboratory techniques and access to state-of-the-art equipment for mass spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy, palaeogenomics and advanced imaging. The Advanced Informatics unit helps us to maintain a comprehensive and systematic data management framework for our research data.
  • The University’s McClay Library holds one of the most comprehensive collections of resources on Irish, British, European and World Archaeology in Ireland and the UK, and provides state-of-the-art study facilities.
Internationally Renowned Experts
  • Undertaking a research degree with Archaeology & Palaeoecology at Queen’s, you will work with and be supervised by world-leading experts in their respective fields.
Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in relation to the wide range of research activities undertaken within the School and there are many resources available, including:

  • Access to the research infrastructure offered by the world-leading range of Research Centres and laboratory facilities based in the School and by the University’s Core Technology Units.
  • Access to the Queen’s University Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme.
  • Office accommodation with access to computing facilities and support to attend conferences for full-time MPhil students.

Course content

Research Information

Associated Research
Both the Culture & Society and Environmental Change & Resilience research clusters are strongly interdisciplinary and incorporate researchers from other subject areas across the School (e.g. Human and Physical Geography, Planning, Architecture), working closely together to develop research that takes into consideration both the social and environmental context of human society. Integrated within C&S is the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, a financially self-supporting excavation unit with an exceptional record of publication and a high media profile, reflecting a strong commitment to community engagement.

Both clusters conduct research in Ireland, Great Britain and abroad, in particular the Mediterranean region, territories of the former Soviet Union, the North Atlantic, West Africa and the Americas, where both staff and research students undertake collaborative projects.

Research students maintain their own research seminar series alongside the fortnightly seminars organised by the two research clusters, which routinely bring outstanding scholars from abroad as well as Great Britain and Ireland.

Being based in the purpose-built Archaeology & Palaeoecology Centre, jointly with the 14CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment and Chronology, expands our research facilities and has allowed us to extend our research agenda. Our facilities include an AMS 14C dating facility, an NEC accelerator mass spectrometer, cold storage for biological materials, drawing office, laboratories for post-excavation, human bone analysis, palynology, plant, snail and insect macrofossils, dendrochronology and animal bone analysis.

Thematically, we have identified eight areas of particular specialist interest and especially welcome applications from potential MPhil students interested in these areas, though projects are not limited to these themes:

• Development of agriculture and the cultural landscape in Europe, Eurasia and its associated economic, chronological and environmental backdrop

• Organisation of domestic and ritual space (including landscapes) from prehistory through the post-medieval period in the North Atlantic region

• Religion, society and material culture in the ancient Mediterranean

• Settlement and economy of prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval Ireland; connections with the New World

• Social and bio-archaeological approaches to death, involving the study of mortuary data from Ireland across Eurasia

• Populations and palaeodiet from Ireland to Eurasia

• Refinement of chronologies from selected regions of the world, using the facilities of the 14CHRONO labs

• The causes, timing and impacts of past climate change

Current postgraduates come from Ireland, Great Britain, the USA, France, Italy, Cyprus and the Netherlands.

Career Prospects

Many of our MPhil alumni have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles in educational practice, the public sector or within NGO’s. For further information on career opportunities at MPhil level please contact the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Student Recruitment Team on Our advisors – in consultation with the School – will be happy to provide further information on your research area, possible career prospects and your research application.

People teaching you

Dr Colm Donnelly
Senior Research Fellow
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Medieval and post-medieval archaeology, geophysics and remote sensing, community archaeology.

Dr Dirk Brandherm
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Later prehistoric archaeology of Europe and the Mediterranean, artefact studies, archaeometry of inorganic materials.

Dr Gill Plunkett
Natural & Built Environment
Environmental Change & Resilience Research Cluster. Cryptotephra palynology, mid- to late Holocene environmental change, prehistoric Ireland, past human-environment dynamics.

Dr Maarten Blaauw
Natural & Built Environment
Environmental Change & Resilience Research Cluster. Palaeoecology, chronology-building, other numerical approaches.

Dr Patrick Gleeson
Senior Lecturer
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Medieval archaeology, funerary and ritual practice, landscape archaeology, geophysics and remote sensing.

Dr Ryan Rabett
Senior Lecturer
Natural & Built Environment
Environmental Change & Resilience Research Cluster. Southeast Asian prehistory, palaeolithic archaeology, early human adaptation and dispersal, zooarchaeology.

Dr William Megarry
Senior Lecturer
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Geospatial techniques in archaeology, heritage management, landscape archaeology, archaeology of island cultures.

Professor Audrey Horning
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Global historical archaeology, early modern Atlantic World, comparative colonialism, ethics, archaeological theory.

Professor Caroline Malone
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Later European prehistory, applied studies of artefacts and monuments.

Professor Eileen Murphy
Natural & Built Environment
Culture & Society Research Cluster. Bioarchaeology, burial practices, childhood in the past, archaeology of the Irish diaspora, community archaeology.

Professor Paula Reimer
Natural & Built Environment
Environmental Change & Resilience Research Cluster. Radiocarbon dating and calibration, carbon cycling, palaeoenvironment, palaeoecology, archaeology.

Learning Outcomes

A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field.

Undertaking a research degree also enhances a student’s written and oral communication skills, and a MPhil provides a solid grounding for a research career.

Course structure

An MPhil is awarded for original research in a topic chosen by the student. MPhil studies may be undertaken on a full (2 years) or part-time (4 years) basis.

Research students are appointed a primary and secondary supervisor who will guide them through their research, supported by an independent panel reviewing students’ progress.

This independent research is complemented by programmes of training, provided both by the School of Natural and Built Environment and by Queen's Graduate School, which is housed in a beautiful converted building just minutes from the Archaeology & Palaeoecology Centre.


Assessment processes for the Research Degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback; a formal assessment process takes place annually.

This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the MPhil degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.


Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.

Project name School Funding Subject Status Sort Timestamp
Human-environment dynamics through the Holocene in the Mourne region, Northern Ireland
School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD Environmental Science, Environmental geography, geoscience, archaeology, cultural heritage Dr Gill Plunkett
Dr Gill Plunkett
Application deadline
30 April 2021
School of Natural and Built Environment Funded Archaeology & Palaeoecology Closed 2 1619737200
QUADRAT DTP: Dynamics of carbon capture in Scottish and Irish peatlands over the past centuries
School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD Botany/Plant Science, Climatology & Climate Change, Ecology & Conservation, Environmental Science, G Dr Maarten Blaauw
Dr Maarten Blaauw
Application deadline
18 January 2021
School of Natural and Built Environment Funded Archaeology & Palaeoecology Closed 2 1610928000
Classification, material composition and function of Irish Middle Bronze Age flanged axes and palstaves
School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD Archaeology, Bronze Age, Ireland, Irish, metal analysis, metalwork, palstaves, axes, artefact studie Dr Dirk Brandherm
Dr Dirk Brandherm
Application deadline
None specified
School of Natural and Built Environment Unfunded Archaeology & Palaeoecology Open 2
Micro-climate modelling on the southern margin of the Red River Delta, Vietnam
School of Natural and Built Environment | PHD Micro-climate, topographic variation, climate modelling, human impact, palaeo-climate Dr Ryan Rabett
Dr Ryan Rabett
Application deadline
None specified
School of Natural and Built Environment Unfunded Archaeology & Palaeoecology Open 2

Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,500
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,500
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,500
EU Other 3 £22,000
International £22,000

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Archaeology & Palaeoecology costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

How do I fund my study?
1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.