Ancient biomolecules


Module leader: Matthew Collins

Studies of ancient biomolecules will dominate all forms of bioarchaeological research over the next decade.  This module is principally targeted at osteoarchaeologists, with a focus on the analysis of skeletal materials, but will more broadly appeal to anyone who is likely to encounter biomolecular data sets in the course of their research or professional career. The series of lectures will describe how biomolecules are preserved, extracted and analysed from ancient skeletal tissues in order to complement and enhance information gained from macro and microscopic techniques.  Applications to archaeology, but also to evolutionary biology and paleoecology will be explored. This module is mainly aimed at the ‘end user’ of biomolecular data and emphasis will be placed on learning how to evaluate and interpret published research and datasets in the seminar sessions. The module will also provide a good theoretical basis for anyone interested in pursuing this field at a practical level.


  • To provide students with  a good understanding of biomolecular preservation in skeletal remains
  • To provide students with an overview of the very latest methodologies used in biomolecular analysis
  • To allow students to place biomolecular data in the wider archaeological or palaeoecological context 

Learning Outcomes

Having completed the course you will:

  • be able to critically evaluate past studies for scientific rigour, cost and knowledge gained
  • be able to recognise the methodological strengths and limitations of various techniques
  • be able to recommend applications where biomolecular analysis is likely to be useful
  • know how to select, conserve and take samples for biomolecular investigations
  • be able to interpret published data sets 

DNA sampling of human remains at Hes East 2009 CN