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Practical Skills: Human and Animal Bones - ARC00072I

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Paola Ponce
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to the analysis of human and animal bones from archaeological contexts. You will receive practical training and hands-on experience in the key skills involved in identification and analysis both of human skeletal remains and of zooarchaeological specimens – including the study of age, sex, and body size – and will gain confidence in identifying and diagnosing the seven types of pathologies affecting the skeletal system. Classes combine lectures and practical content and take place in the PalaeoHub labs, making use of our extensive teaching collections of human and animal remains.

Related modules

A directed option - students must pick a Practical Skills module and have a choice of which to take (one in Semester 1 and one in Semester 2). Student can not take Practical Skills: Human and Animal Bones in both Semesters. 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25
B Semester 2 2024-25

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 provide students with practical training and laboratory experience in identifying, ageing, and sexing archaeological human and animal remains.
  • To introduce students to the study of palaeopathology, particularly in human remains.
  • To introduce students to the potential and limitations of human and animal bone analyses within archaeology.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the skeletal anatomy of humans and the most common domestic mammals
  • Demonstrate a practical understanding of how to assess age, sex and describe and diangose some pathological lesions of human and animal remains
  • Demonstrate an ability to measure human and animal bones following established protocols, and calculate living height for humans.
  • Apply the methods and techniques they have learned to explain the contributions that human and animal osteology can make within archaeology.

Module content

Following an introduction to the potential of human and animal osteology within archaeology, the first half of the module will focus on skeletal anatomy and the identification of the main bones and teeth of humans and the five most common domestic mammals. We will then move on to introduce the key methods of analysis of human and animal remains, including sex determination, assessment of age-at-death, metrical analysis, finishing on the recognition of pathologies and their importance within human osteology in particular.


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Exam : Practical Skills: Human and Animal Bones
2 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Exam : Practical Skills: Human and Animal Bones
2 hours 100

Module feedback

Formative: written feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

O’Connor, T. 2000. The Archaeology of Animal Bones. Stroud: Sutton.

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

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

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.