MSc Osteoarchaeology

The below module information is relevant for our MSc in Osteoarchaeology

Closeup of student holding animal Jawbone

Over the course of the MSc programme, you will need to study modules that equate to the value of 180 credits. Some of these credits will be taken up by our core modules, which are designed to give you the breadth of knowledge and ways of thinking necessary to the degree being awarded. For your remaining credits, you will be able to choose from a range of optional modules, allowing you to shape your degree to the topics that interest you.

In this programme you may choose between either a Dissertation or a Work Placement as part of your core programme

Archaeozoology (15 Credits)

Zooarchaeology (or Archaeozoology) is the study of past human interaction with animals through the analysis of their material remains. This module provides a practical introduction to the identification, analysis and interpretation of animal bones from archaeological sites. Practical skills are developed through group laboratory work, concentrating on mammals but also touching on other classes of vertebrates. Methodological and theoretical issues in archaeological interpretation are discussed in the classes in combination with the hands-on work. The course culminates in a project report, which reconstructs animal exploitation through the analysis of anatomical and ageing data.

Advanced Zooarchaeology (15 Credits)

All key zooarchaeological areas are touched upon but more complex aspects of methods and their applications than those taught in a foundation module are presented and discussed. In other words this module moves the teaching towards full training – rather than merely educational – purposes. It is based on a variety of hands-on sessions, lectures, seminars and discussion groups.

Considerations/prerequisites: This unit is designed for students who have already taken a basic module in zooarchaeology or have equivalent experience and provides them with the opportunity to investigate the subject at a more specialised level.

Biological Anthropology I (15 Credits)

This unit aims to provide students with an overview of the theoretical and ethical background to the biological study of human skeletal remains from archaeological sites and the opportunity to acquire core skills and expertise in essential analytical skills such as the assessment of age, sex and stature, metric and non-metric variation. A general introduction will be provided to the ways in which taphonomic processes and funerary activities impact on the skeleton alongside the means by which osteological data are interpreted and contextualised.

Human Osteology (15 Credits)

In this module the students are introduced to the human skeleton, both adult and immature, and comparative primate skeletons. They are provided with in depth information on how to recognise individual bones, how to side elements by being familiar with all pertinent landmarks. They will also be introduced to the size and shape variation present in the skeleton of Homo sapiens

Considerations: This module is for students on MSc Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology/MSc Osteoarchaeology/MSc Palaeoanthropology only.

Osteoarchaeological Assemblage Analysis (15 Credits)

This module will consist of the study of an osteoarchaeological assemblage, which will be undertaken individually by students, but with supervision and advice from staff and, when appropriate, research students. The students will be able to choose between a human and animal bone assemblage. The students will first be introduced to their tasks and parallel case studies, and will then embark in individual work consisting in choosing a recording system, record the material, analyse the data and eventually interpret and write them up.


  • Animal bones assemblage: Zooarchaeology (or have equivalent experience) and will run in parallel to Advanced Zooarchaeology  
  • Human bones assemblage: Human Osteology (or have equivalent experience) and Biological Anthropology II. Students who choose this component will also need to take Biological Anthropology I and Human Anatomy.
The History of the Human-Animal Relationship (15 Credits)

This module will provide the students with an understanding of the main stages in the evolution of the human-animal relationship, from the Palaeolithic to modern times. The importance of animals in the history of human societies as well as its variation in time and space will be discussed. The unit will cover ecological and economic as well as social, ritual and symbolic aspects and, though focussed on archaeology, will also make use of ethnographic, historical, literary and iconographic sources. It will provide a necessary integration to modules dealing with the methods used to study past animals and those that are period-based.

  • AND one from the following- 

Dissertation (60 Credits)

This module requires students to plan, execute and write up an original research project. This dissertation project is chosen with, and approved by, the designated supervisor, who may or may not be the programme director. Dissertation topics must be based on original research and on the students' own ideas: they must be worthwhile, affordable, manageable within time limits, capable of supervision within the Department and related to the subject matter on the appropriate Masters.

This can be in a Standard Style or in a Journal Paper Style 

Students who choose the Journal Paper Style of dissertation will place particular emphasis on synthetic writing and an ability to familiarise themselves with journal publication submission and style

Work Placement (60 Credits)

The placement scheme is designed to allow students to work alongside practitioners 'in the field', and to get consolidated hands on experience in a subject/technique of particular interest to them. Placements can be in any sphere of professional practice in archaeology or management of the historic environment. Students will be expected to spend a minimum of eight weeks on the placement. The assessment will have two elements: a short account of the placement, and a written project report resulting from an aspect of the work undertaken.

Considerations: Students selecting this module should not take Heritage, Museum and Field: Archaeology in Practise

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Information last updated: 14 July 2020

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