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MSc Bioarchaeology

Study at the frontiers of archaeological science

Year of entry: 2020

Length

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

Start date

September 2020 (term dates)

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Bioarchaeology at York 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.

We offer 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. You'll also 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.

It was incredibly stimulating to see how much I developed as an academic over the time. As a mature student with years away from studies, due to excavations, I only have positive things to say about my studies in York, and would anytime recommend it to others.
Theis, MSc Bioarchaeology

Beautiful surroundings

York is the UK's archaeological capital. You'll study in King's Manor, a beautiful Medieval building in the centre of the historic city.

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.

Royal recognition

We were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2011 in recognition of our dynamic research community and teaching excellence.

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. This is made up of two core modules, two shorter core skills modules and four option modules. Finally, you will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic. 

Modules

Core modules

Option modules

You will study two further 20-credit modules and two 5-credit 'skills' modules from our full range of options. Examples include:

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

Dissertation

In your final term of study, you will carry out research for and write your dissertation (80 credits) 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:

  • Demonstrate an applied, systematic, in-depth understanding of essential disciplinary knowledge of bioarchaeology, and awareness of its breadth and its application in relevant academic, professional, ethical and socio-economic contexts
  • Engage critically with current debates and advanced scholarship in local and international research and practice within bioarchaeology in order to evaluate the field of practice
  • Inform decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations by assessing and applying advanced, professionallevel bioarchaeological principles and methodologies to diverse problems or forms of data
  • Confidently synthesise research findings and key scholarly debates, and communicate (through a variety of forms and media) to peers, public or professional audiences in such a way that demonstrates an ability to consider and adapt to their respective needs
  • Demonstrate originality in rigorous and imaginative independent inquiry, using advanced research skills, and a clear contribution to the work of a team
  • Evaluate the research potential of bioarchaeological remains in a broad range of archaeological settings and recommend suitable biomolecular approaches to their study
  • Guided by good practice, apply a range of osteological and/or biomolecular analyses within complex research or specialised commercial contexts
  • Evaluate the research potential of human skeletal anatomy, growth and pathology, and recommend approaches to their analyses

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2020/21

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year) £8,040£18,240
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
£4,020£9,120
Part-time (3 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
£2,680£6,080

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

We have a variety of funding options available within the department.

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.

Within a year I had made lifelong friends, learned how to juggle the science and humanitarian aspects of archaeology and, of course, developed a range of osteology skills that would inevitably contribute to shaping my career.
Keneiloe, MSc Bioarchaeology

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 Environment building on Campus West, where Bioarchaeology has a dedicated floor. The building houses 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 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

The skills and techniques you'll develop 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 graduates go on to further research in bioarchaeological and environmental fields and on PhD courses in York and institutions worldwide.

Career opportunities

Recent students have gone on to careers and research in a range of fields:

  • 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
Thanks to the time and dedication of the staff, the structure of the course and the connections I made through York I was able to expand my skills and confidence and was thus able to take a fantastic professional opportunity as a researcher at the Centre for GeoGenetics in Copenhagen, where I continue to explore the possibilities of investigating our past through scientific application.
Anna, MSc Bioarchaeology

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent in Archaeology, Anthropology, Biology or related fields
Other qualifications and experience Mature students or those with less conventional qualifications but with relevant professional experience and enthusiasm for this field will be considered. To find out if your professional experience or qualifications are appropriate, please contact the Course Director.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Qualification Minimum requirement
IELTS 6.5, minimum 6.5 in Writing and 6.0 in all other components
PTE Academic 61, minimum 61 in Writing and 55 in all other components
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 176 in Writing and 169 in all other components
TOEFL 87, minimum 23 in Writing and 21 in all other components
Trinity ISE III Merit in all components

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

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.

Applying

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

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