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Skeletal Evidence for Health in the Past - ARC00118M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Ms. Malin Holst
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

In this module, we build on the foundations from The Archaeology of the Human Skeleton by focusing on what people in the past looked like using measurements, as well as on palaeopathology, with the aim of developing an understanding of skeletal lesions of disease and trauma and how to distinguish these.

Related modules

Pre-Requisite: Students must have taken The Archaeology of the Human Skeleton in Semester 1 to be able to take this module in Semester 2. 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims:

  • To provide an insight into the skeletal changes which can be observed as a result disease and trauma
  • To demonstrate means of analysing and developing individual osteobiographies
  • To develop an understanding of health, development, diet and the history of medicine
  • To give practical experience of the description and differential diagnoses of disease and trauma
  • To gain an understanding of the role of skeletal data and how this can be presented for commercial and educational purposes

Module learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding, and a critical awareness of potential and limits of an archaeological human skeleton
  • Demonstrate a practical understanding of how established techniques of research are used to create and interpret knowledge, specifically relating to life histories, skeletal and dental pathologies and health, growth and development
  • Communicate their conclusions of osteological and palaeopathological data clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences

Module content

This module will provide a background to the concepts of health, skeletal development and growth and how these affect human remains. You will explore medical treatment in the past, as well as developing an understanding of the different types of pathologies that can affect the human skeleton. Through a series of practical classes, you will gain hands-on experience of detailed human skeletal anatomy, focusing on the identification of skeletal pathology and trauma.

The module will also focus on how skeletal remains are commercially analysed and how individual osteobiographies can be developed. You will consider ways in which data gained from skeletal analysis can be presented as client reports, within in academic setting, as poster presentations for conferences and for the general public and how this can be used to develop impact. The module will also consider the ethics of biomolecular analyses, sampling techniques and potential ways of applying such techniques and their outcomes.

This module builds on The Archaeology of the Human Skeleton, it is essential that students choosing Skeletal Evidence for Health in the Past have completed The Archaeology of the Human Skeleton.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Aufderheide, A.C. and Rodríguez-Martín, C. 1998. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Paleopathology (Cambridge)

Cox, M. and Mays, S. (eds) 2000. Human Osteology in Archaeology and Forensic Science (London)

Roberts, C.A. and Manchester, K. 2005. The Archaeology of Disease (Stroud)

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.