Skip to content
Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses 2019/20>Bioarchaeology (MSc)

MSc Bioarchaeology

Study at the frontiers of archaeological science

Year of entry: 2019


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time,
3 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

Events and fairs

Find out what studying and living in York as a postgraduate is really like.  

Meet us

Undertake cutting edge training in osteoarchaeological analysis of skeletal remains. Gain knowledge of the latest developments in molecular techniques applied to artefacts and biological remains.

Bioarchaeology at York is different because it combines advanced osteoarchaeological techniques with the molecular analysis of human remains. You'll be encouraged to immerse yourself in the study of stable isotopes, lipid residue analysis, palaeoproteomics and ancient DNA – and play an active role in the development of new techniques in this constantly evolving branch of archaeology.

You'll access advanced training in human osteoarchaeology, delivered by the UK’s leading practitioners, and get the chance to study ancient biomolecules in world-class facilities. The course offers a unique opportunity to combine bioarchaeology with complementary subjects and tailor a course to suit your interests. We also offer training in biomolecular analysis of artefacts (ceramics), other biological remains (animal bones, shells and plants), and historical archives (parchment).

You'll have an opportunity to use a wide range of in-house analytical equipment, take part in cutting-edge science and build essential practical skills whilst working alongside leading researchers and academics in a diverse range of specialisms. Finally, you will get the chance to work on research projects with original materials that are often ‘fresh out of the ground’, and thus contribute to pioneering research.

Course content

Through a combination of academic studies, practical training and dissertation research, this course provides a thorough grounding in all aspects of bioarchaeology theory, investigation and practice. You'll study a total of 180 credits over the course. You will study two core modules (worth 20 credits each), two shorter core skills modules (worth 5 credits each), and four option modules (two worth 20 credits each and two skills modules worth five credits each). Finally, you will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic. This will be worth a total of 80 credits.


Core modules

Option modules

You will then study two further 20-credit modules and two shorter 5-credit 'skills' modules

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


In your final term of study, you will carry out research for and write your dissertation which will be 15-20,000 words in length. You'll also give an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic.

Examples of previous dissertation titles include:

  • Specialised Processing of Aquatic Resources in Prehistoric Alaskan Pottery? A Lipid-Residue Analysis of Ceramic Shards from the Thule-Period Site of Nunalleq Alaska. Arctic 51, 86–100
  • Application of proteomics to mummies and dental calculus
  • Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity. Nat. Genet. 46, 336–344.
  • Direct evidence of milk consumption from ancient human dental calculus. Sci. Rep.
  • Roman Leicester and York: a stable isotope investigation
  • Violence or Accident: Trauma among Anglo-Saxon populations of Norton
  • Examining the existence and extent of tuberculosis in two Roman Leicester populations

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • identify and record human bone assemblages
  • age, sex and assess pathologies from human bones
  • understand advanced methods for analysing bone tissues, including biomolecular methods
  • apply chemical and biomolecular methods to skeletal material
  • understand the processes of decay and diagenesis of bone tissue
  • critically evaluate published research and datasets
  • orally present knowledge and concepts
  • work effectively within a laboratory environment
  • plan, design and undertake a piece of independent research

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year) £7,810£17,370
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee
Part-time (3 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

Students on a Tier 4 Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Additional costs

We don't anticipate there being any additional fees associated with this course. All books and resources you need will be available in the library or online and it isn't mandatory to buy your own copies. You may wish to set aside a small budget for photocopying, depending on how you like to work.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Beautiful surroundings

Study in King's Manor, a beautiful Medieval building in the centre of historic York.

Feel at home

Informality is one of our distinctive qualities - the atmosphere in our department is friendly, supportive and enthusiastic. We want you to develop your potential and thrive at York.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You'll be taught via a combination of lectures, seminars and lab-based practical work. 

Teaching location

Teaching takes place primarily in the state-of the-art £12m Environment building, where Bioarchaeology has a dedicated floor, with specialist laboratories for ancient DNA analysis, proteomics, microscopy, isotope geoscience and organic chemistry, as well as hi-technology teaching labs. You will have the chance to carry out projects with archaeologists at King’s Manor and with researchers in Biology, Environment and Geography, and at the Hull York Medical School

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You will be assessed by a variety of methods. Depending on which modules you opt to take, these could include: 

  • Essays
  • Oral presentations
  • Report writing
  • Dissertation
  • Alternative assessment methods such as film-making, blogging or posters

Careers and skills

These skills and techniques are deployed widely in the field of archaeological research and exploration, but they are also valuable for a wide range of careers and further studies.

Many our MSc Bioarchaeology postgraduates go on to further research in bioarchaeological and environmental fields. The BioArch department has a successful track record of placing students on PhD courses in York and institutions worldwide.

Career opportunities

Here’s a selection of the career and research destinations of some of our recent students:

  • US graduate school programmes
  • Archaeological field units
  • Environmental archaeology
  • Professional archaeologists – field and laboratory based
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Demonstrators
  • University/research technicians
  • Academia
  • On-site osteoarchaeologists
  • Medical humanities

Transferable skills

  • Time management
  • Research skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Work independently or as part of a team
  • Critically evaluate research and datasets
  • Work within a lab environment
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
  • A good honours degree (2:1 or first) or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution in archaeology, anthropology, biology or related fields
  • Or, in the case of mature students who might not have conventional qualifications, appropriate relevant experience.

Mature students or those with less conventional qualifications but with relevant professional experience and enthusiasm for this field will be considered.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current IELTS scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr André Carlo Colonese

Learn more

Department of Archaeology

Discover York


We offer a range of campus accommodation to suit you and your budget, from economy to premium.

Student life

Explore campus and city life and hear what our current students have to say about living here.

The city

Lively, full of culture and beautiful, York is regularly voted one of the best places to live and visit in the UK.