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Practical Skills: Human Bones


Module leader: Paola Ponce


  • This module aims to give laboratory experience in studying human skeletal and dental remains
  • Demonstrate the important and useful contribution that bioarchaeology can make to the wider discipline of archaeology
  • To develop a familiarity with the human skeleton
  • To understand the information potential and limitations of human bone analysis

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Be familiar with human anatomy and learn the names of the bones in the human skeleton
  • Assess age and sex of human remains
  • Learn how to calculate living height and identify non-metric traits
  • Identify, describe and diagnose some pathological lesions
  • Critically evaluate specialist osteological reports  
  • Explore developments in osteology and palaeopathology
  • Analyse age, sex and pathology of an archaeological skeleton and produce a report on the results
  • Learn how to interpret the results of skeletal analysis

Further information

This module builds on the first year module Introduction to Archaeological Science where students have been introduced to the scientific methods used in the study of human skeletal material.

Through the term, students will be expected to develop their skills in critiquing a specialist report (students write their own specialist report in the co-requisite module the following term so it is important that they understand good practice). The formative assessment is designed to provide training and a similar summative assessment is handed in at the end term. Students will be encouraged to keep a lab notebook during term (which will help when it comes to the Team Project in the summer term) and they will be assessed on the practical skills they have acquired during practical sessions through the term in a class test.


This module not only provides practical skills in a certain area but also gives students the opportunity to develop the following skills:

  • Self management: it is of vital importance that you learn the practical skills this term so you can apply them next term to your team project so you will need to manage your time well and spend about 10 hours a week in independent study
  • Communication: you will be learning how to communicate the results of work and should be developing both your written and verbal communication skills
  • Team working: although the focus of team working comes next term it is a good idea to begin to work with others in the group and think about how to lead, and follow, effectively
  • Problem solving: this module will require a capacity for analysis, synthesis and the ability to evaluate information from a range of sources
  •  Social, cultural and global awareness: you may be considering case studies from an international context within this module. You should also appreciate the ethical issues involved.
  • Application of IT: you will be using the internet for a range of sources and you will be using word processing packages for presentation of your work
  • Application of numeracy: you will be thinking about how to interpret data