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MSc Zooarchaeology

Study animals from the past with the techniques of the future

Year of entry: 2023 (September)


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

Start date

September 2023 (semester dates)

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in the UK

QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023

in the world

QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023

Join the UK's only dedicated course in the archaeological study of animals.

Any consideration of the human past is incomplete without examining the essential roles that animals have played in our economies and societies. On this course you will study archaeological animal remains on a macro and micro scale to investigate what they tell us about how humans and other species have co-existed over the millennia. 

The scope of the course is global, equipping you with the knowledge and techniques to study the roles of animals in human societies from the Palaeolithic to the present and around the world. You will have the opportunity to select modules taught by leading academics in both traditional and biomolecular zooarchaeology, and options led by dedicated specialists in evolutionary anatomy, enabling you to master the latest analytical techniques and examine skeletal anatomy.

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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.

Course content

This course covers the practical skills, analytical techniques, and interpretative frameworks necessary to study the roles of animals in past societies from the bones and other remains that we find on archaeological sites.

Core modules and laboratory classes will provide you with a solid grounding in the essential tools of the zooarchaeologist's trade, while the option modules and dissertation allow you to explore and potentially specialise in a unique range of biomolecular and anatomical approaches. 

You will study 180 credits over the duration of your course. You'll study a variety of modules and then hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic. 


Core modules

Option modules

You'll also study three option modules:

You will also be able to choose from certain modules from Hull York Medical School (HYMS) (eg Human Functional Anatomy and Musculoskeletal Biology). Please contact us if you have specific requirements.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


You will undertake a 10,000-word journal style dissertation and assessed lecture as part of the course. You will have a supervisor throughout this time who will be able to help and guide you through the process.

Examples of previous dissertations have included:

  • Fishing practices and transitions in the Mesolithic and Neolithic of Adriatic Croatia: insights from the fish remains from the site of Vela Spila, Korčula.
  • 'Sleipnir's Rejects': comparing disarticulated horse remains with horse burials in the Anglo-Scandinavian Danelaw.
  • ZooMS collagen fingerprinting as a tool for interpreting sheep and goat husbandry at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey.
  • Osteochondrosis in sheep and cattle: differential diagnosis and estimating prevalence.
  • A taphonomic analysis of a small vertebrate assemblage from Kinsey Cave, Yorkshire.
  • The use of augmented reality as a teaching aid in zooarchaeology.
  • An identification guide for the petrous bones of domestic animals.

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 zooarchaeology, and awareness of its breadth and its relevant academic, professional and socio-economic contexts
  • Engage critically with current debates and advanced scholarship in local and international research and practice within zooarchaeology in order to evaluate the field of practice
  • Inform decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations by assessing and applying advanced, professional-level zooarchaeology theories 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
  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the broad pattern of vertebrate evolutionary anatomy, hard tissue structure and growth, and explain its relevance to archaeology
  • Apply a range of appropriate specialist skills to the primary and secondary analysis of zooarchaeological remains, related to research and/or commercial contexts
  • Evaluate the research potential of zooarchaeological assemblages in a broad range of archaeological settings and recommend suitable approaches to their study, including specialist analyses.
The modules offered are diverse and cover all aspects zooarchaeological practice and techniques. Option modules allow freedom to study topics of interest such as field archaeology and artefacts. I learned many new skills while developing existing ones.
Ewan, MSc Zooarchaeology

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2023/24

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £9,990£22,250
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 (formerly Tier 4 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 that you 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 2023/24 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.

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 will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, with an emphasis on student led-discussion and presentations. Each core module also features a dedicated workshop day, including the innovative Yok Höyük simulation in which you’ll recreate the entire process of bioarchaeological and zooarchaeological research at a prehistoric site, from sample design and costing through to analysis and interpretation. The core skills modules are hands-on, practical classes, lasting four hours each. These are taught in small groups of 12-16, so there is plenty of one-on-one guidance with staff.


You'll have access to specialist laboratories for ancient DNA analysis, proteomics, microscopy and isotope geoscience, and to the expertise of evolutionary anatomists from the Hull York Medical School, with their suite of 3D scanning, modelling and Geometric Morphometrics (GMM) capabilities.

Teaching location

You'll be based in BioArCh, York's world-leading centre for research into ancient biomolecules, housed within the Department of Environment and Geography on Campus West. The majority of your teaching will take place in the adjacent PalaeoHub, a facility that brings Archaeology together with the functional and comparative anatomists from the Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences, part of 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

Many of our Zooarchaeology students go on to conduct further research at PhD level. Others progress into careers with archaeological units, museum services, conservation bodies and a range of other organisations.

The MSc also provides a solid foundation for the two doctoral training programmes on offer at York:

Career opportunities

  • Professional archaeologist - field and laboratory based
  • Archaeology site supervisor
  • Museum outreach officer
  • Commercial laboratory technician
  • Higher education research and teaching
  • Local government and development

Transferable skills

  • Data collection and management
  • Problem solving
  • Data analysis and quantitative methods
  • High level of written and oral skills
  • Teamwork
  • Project management
  • Time management
Completing York’s Zooarchaeology programme has not only allowed me to become an effective researcher who is well versed in current zooarchaeological and bioarchaeological methodologies, but also an asset in the field where my zooarchaeological expertise is a valuable commodity.
Erin, MSc Zooarchaeology

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent in Archaeology, Anthropology or a related field. We also consider applicants who have a 2:2 degree and relevant work experience.
Other qualifications and experience Graduates in a biological subject will also be considered, as will mature students or those with less conventional qualifications but with relevant experience.
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
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 176 in Writing and 169 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 International ESOL B2 Communicator: Pass with 39/50 in writing and no less than 33/50 in all others
PTE Academic/PTE Academic Online 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'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 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 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.

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Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Helen Chan, Student Services Administrator
Dr David Orton, Course Director

Learn more

Department of Archaeology

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