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MSc Bioarchaeology

Study at the frontiers of archaeological science

Year of entry: 2024 (September)


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

Start date

September 2024 (semester dates)

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in the UK for archaeology

QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023

in the world for archaeology

QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023

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 students the unique opportunity to design their own masters course based on their interests and future careers, with a range of core subjects that will underpin their understanding of osteoarchaeology and biomolecular archaeology alongside a broad suite of option modules. 

You'll be taught by leading academic specialists from the Archaeology Department’s BioArCh centre for bioarchaeology who work on a range of cutting-edge research and commercial projects that feed into their teaching. We offer students dedicated independent lab time (open labs) with human and animal bones to deepen their anatomical knowledge.

Dissertation projects offer the opportunity to specialise further in your chosen area of focus, including practical skills to enhance employment prospects or prepare students for doctoral research. Dissertation projects are often associated with live research projects or collections and could involve biomolecular analysis of human, animal or plant remains (ancient DNA, stable isotopes, proteins), artefacts (organic residue analysis), osteoarchaeological and palaeopathological analysis, microscopy, radiography, SEM, pXRF and a range of other techniques in world-class facilities. The optional Professional Practice module provides advanced training in osteoarchaeology.

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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 and we use it extensively as our ‘living lab’ for both teaching and research.

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.

Research excellence

Ranked 6th overall for our research according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

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:

  • Semester 1 - two cores and one option module
  • Semester 2 - two options and an 80 credit dissertation
  • Summer Semester - 80 credit dissertation continued


Core modules

Option modules

You'll choose from a range of option modules. Examples may include: 

You'll also have the opportunity to choose options from our full module catalogue:

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff, and in line with Department/School academic planning.


You'll complete a 10,000-word dissertation and assessed lecture on your research.

You will receive support, advice and guidance from your dissertation supervisor throughout your project. The range of expertise of our staff means we can provide you with guidance on a wide range of topics. You will have one-to-one meetings with supervisors across Semester 2 and the Summer Semester.

Examples of previous dissertations 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, professional-level 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 2024/25

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £10,590£23,900
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
Part-time (3 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

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

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study.

  • UK (home) fees may increase in subsequent years (up to a maximum of 2%).
  • International fees may increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

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.

Funding information

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

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2024/25 throughout the year.

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

Funding opportunities

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, workshops and lab-based practical work. 


On Campus West, Bioarchaeology has a dedicated centre, BioArCh, in the Environment building. The centre has specialist laboratories for ancient DNA analysis, proteomics, microscopy, isotope geoscience and organic chemistry, as well as hi-technology teaching labs.

Teaching location

You'll be based on Campus West. There are opportunities to carry out projects with archaeologists 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

  • Professional archaeologists – field and laboratory based
  • Environmental post excavation archaeologist
  • On-site osteoarchaeologists
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Demonstrators
  • University research technician and lecturer

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

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.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

You will need to submit examples of written work with your application. Please see our guidance on submitting written work.

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:

Minimum requirement
IELTS (Academic and Indicator) 6.5, minimum 6.5 in Writing and 6.0 in all other components
Cambridge CEFR B2 First: 176, with a minimum of 176 in Writing and no less than 169 in all other components
Oxford ELLT 7, minimum of 7 in writing and no less than 6 in all other components
Duolingo 120, minimum 120 in production and 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert Academic 70 with a minimum of 70 in Writing and no less than 65 in all other components
KITE 459-494, with 459-494 in writing and 426-458 in all other components
Skills for English B2: Merit overall, with Merit in writing and Pass with Merit in all other components
PTE Academic 61, minimum 61 in Writing and 55 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 haven't 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 English language test 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 online. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Jessie Hendy
Dr Sophy Charlton

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Department of Archaeology

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