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The Archaeology of Human Bones


Module leaders: Malin Holst

Module Overview

The scientific study of human remains provides the best insight into the lives of our ancestors. Through a series of lectures and seminars you will explore current theories, practice and debates in osteology, palaeopathology and funerary archaeology, including ethics, demography, ageing and sexing techniques, concepts of health, disease, trauma and mortuary practices. We will draw on up-to-date examples from the rich archaeological record that exists in Britain to see what can be learnt about past populations by studying human skeletal assemblages and their associated contexts. 


This module will address the questions of how and why we study human remains. It will introduce students to the field of human osteoarchaeology and provide them with a good understanding of the latest techniques used in the analysis of archaeological human remains. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • be familiar with ethical and cultural considerations surrounding human remains
  • have a clear understanding of the level of detail and confidence with which human remains can be investigated and interpreted
  • develop a greater understanding of health, demography and disease
  • gain an understanding of how pathology can affect the skeleton
  • be able to critically evaluate different metric and morphological techniques that osteoarchaeologists use to study human skeletal remains
  • be familiar with the reporting of human skeletal remains
  • understand the importance of the archaeological context and funerary archaeology
  • enhance their skills in oral presentations, discussion and debate
  • enhance their skills in producing powerpoint presentations and essay writing

Human bones in situ