MA Program in Archaeology (MAPA)

Students interested in applying for the MA in Archaeology should contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). MAPA is administered by the Archaeology Program, housed in 261 McGraw Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

At present MAPA promotes two MA tracks, one explicitly archaeological and one oriented toward object (including museum) studies. A key strength of both tracks is that they share common core courses while the tailored committee structure of graduate training allows students to sculpt programs of study that most closely suit their needs.

MAPA is designed to provide students with an intensive orientation to the field, appropriate to both students with BA degrees in the liberal arts who have considerable experience in archaeology and those seeking to build a foundation in the field.  The goal of the program is to provide students with the intellectual resources and institutional support necessary to prepare them for successful admissions to top-tier PhD programs as well as alternative careers in both public and private institutions.

Conferral of the MA in Archaeology entails satisfactory completion of the following requirements:

  • 8 courses at the 4000+ level (distribution requirements described below);
  • Fall Semester CIAMS Seminar (included in the 8 course requirement);
  • The Craft of Archaeology (Arkeo 6100);
  • 2 semesters in residence (i.e., taking courses on the Ithaca campus)
  • A thesis;
  • Successful defense of the thesis in an oral examination.

Within the total of 8 required courses, at least 4 must satisfy the following requirements:

  • 1 course at the 4000+ level devoted to Archaeological Theory;
  • 1 course at the 4000+ level devoted to Archaeological Method;
  • 2 courses at the 4000+ level in coursework devoted to the archaeology of a region.

During the fall semester, students are also required to enroll in “The Craft of Archaeology” (Arkeo 6100).  This one-credit course, co-taught by the in-residence faculty, provides both an orientation to current faculty research and hands-on advice on professional skills from constructing a CV, to applying to graduate programs, to developing collaborative research projects.

Model Course of Study
Each student’s course of study is guided initially by the Graduate Advisory Committee and then, by the end of the first semester, by the special committee.  While there is thus no single model for a program of study, one fairly standard model for a 2-semester curriculum would be:

  • Semester 1
    • The Craft of Archaeology (Arkeo 6100)
    • CIAMS Seminar (Archaeological Method or Theory course)
    • Course on the Archaeology of a Region #1
    • Other elective or language
    • Other elective
  • End of Semester 1: Establish special committee
  • Before Day 1 of Semester 2: Submit research proposal to committee
  • Semester 2
    • Course in Archaeological Theory or Method
    • Course on the Archaeology of a Region #2
    • Other elective or language
    • Thesis Research (with committee chair)
  • Graduation Semester
    • Submission of MA paper
    • MA Exam

All courses required to satisfy distribution requirements must be taken for a quality (letter) grade. Only one course may be taken S/U within the 8 required for graduation.  Courses taken beyond the 8 required courses may be taken S/U.

Graduate Advisory Committee
The Graduate Advisory Committee is composed of the DGS as chair and 2 additional members from across the constituent units committed to the field.  The role of the graduate advisory committee is to provide advice and mentoring to new students as they work to compose their special committee.  The Graduate Advisory Committee also assists the DGS in matters related to general policy pertaining to graduate study.

Special Committees
With guidance from the Graduate Advisory Committee, each student should officially constitute a Special Committee no later than the end of the first semester in residence.  The committee chair must be a member of the Field of Archaeology; the second member can be chosen from the Graduate Faculty at large. Students may change the composition of their committees if needed.

MA Thesis
No later than the first day of spring semester, students must submit to their Special Committee and the DGS a short (maximum 4 pages) proposal detailing the focus of their MA research paper.
The final thesis for the MA in Archaeology should present a piece of original research on a topic of empirical, theoretical, or methodological importance. It should not exceed 30 pages including all tables, figures, bibliography and notes (using standard formatting in accordance with graduate school requirements). It should aim to be similar in quality and scale to those published in professional archaeological journals.  Indeed, students are encouraged to work with their special committee to find suitable publication venues for the MA thesis.

MA Thesis Defense
After submission of the MA research paper an oral examination is convened with the Special Committee and any other Archaeology Field members who choose to attend.  The MA degree is awarded to students who successfully defend their theses at this oral examination, and whose theses have been approved by the special committee and filed with the Graduate School.

There is no specific language requirement for the Archaeology MA.  However, the Special Committee can advise language study as appropriate.  In particular, for some MA research projects – where relevant primary sources or key scholarly literature are not available in English – it will be necessary for students to demonstrate suitable minimum language ability (as advised by the Special Committee) at least by the time of their MA defense.