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Practical: Human Bones - ARC00004I

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Paola Ponce
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module aims to provide hands-on practical experience on the analysis of human remains from archaeological contexts. Starting from the assessment of sex and age you will then apply the principles of osteometric analysis to calculate the living height of individuals. Through a series of lab-based lectures, you will gain confidence in identifying and diagnosing the seven types of pathologies affecting the skeletal system. A skeletal collection of real human skeletons curated in PalaeoHub will be used for this purpose.

Students have said that this module gave them an opportunity to examine real human bones and apply what they have learnt during theoretical lectures in a stimulating environment.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The Practical Skills modules seek to introduce you to a range of skills in various diverse areas of archaeological practice and are designed to allow you to gain experience in a 'hands-on' manner.

This specific module aims to:

  • This module aims to give laboratory experience in studying human skeletal and dental remains

  • To develop a familiarity with the human skeleton

  • To understand the information potential and limitations of human bone analysis

  • Demonstrate the important and useful contribution that bioarchaeology can make to the wider discipline of archaeology

Module 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

Module content

This is an optional module, part of the suite of Spring Term practical modules. It has a companion Team Project which will run in the Summer Term.

We will start with an introduction to excavation and the ethics of human remains from archaeological contexts. In preparation for the summative assessment (50%), we then move on to develop practical skills in critiquing a specialist report as this is an important requirement to understand good practice. The following lectures and practicals will devote to the learning the bones of the human skeleton and the dentition, the assessment of sex and age, morphometrics and non-metric traits, to then conclude with the basics of palaeopathology focusing on dental disease, trauma, congenital, joint, infectious, metabolic and neoplastic disease in preparation for the summative practical exam (50%).


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
N/A 50
Practical Class Test
N/A 50

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
N/A 50
Practical Class Test
N/A 50

Module feedback

Formative: The marker will share written feedback with you in a timetabled one-to-one meeting and you will have the opportunity to ask further questions about how to improve your work before your summative assessment. If you are unable to attend the feedback session, your tutor will share the formative feedback with you digitally.

Summative: Written feedback sheets will be uploaded to your e:vision account (your personal University of York online services account) within 20 working days of the submission deadline, along with your overall mark for the module. If you have any questions about your mark and/or your written feedback, you will be able to sign up for office hours with the marker.

Indicative reading

Buikstra, J. 2019. Ortner’s Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains, Buikstra, J. (Ed) London: Academic Press

White, T., Folkens, P. 2005. The Human Bone Manual. Amsterdam: Academic Press

White, T., Black, M., Folkens P. 2012. Human Osteology. Amsterdam: Academic Press

Detailed reading for the module will be available via YorkShare (the University's virtual learning environment). When you have enrolled on a module, you will be able to access the full reading list.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.