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MSc Zooarchaeology

Study animals from the past with the techniques of the future

Year of entry: 2019


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

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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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, 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.

  • Study past relations between people and other animals, through the archaeological record
  • Examine zooarchaeology across the entire span of human prehistory and history, right around the world
  • Develop advanced skills in bone taphonomy and understand its importance to osteoarchaeological studies
  • Explore biomolecular techniques, including DNA analysis, proteomics and stable isotope analysis
  • Investigate skeletal anatomy
  • Work alongside leading academics in zooarchaeological research
  • Receive career and research guidance from Department of Archaeology staff with significant experience of successfully placing PhD students.

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 undertake a total of 180 credits. These will be made up of four core modules (two worth 20 credits each and two skills modules worth 5 credits each), and four option modules (two worth 20 credits and two skills modules worth 5 credits each). You will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic which will be worth 80 credits in total. 


Core modules

Option modules

You will choose two 20-credit option modules from a wide variety available within the department, including:

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

You will also select two further 5-credit skills modules from a wide range including:

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


You will undertake a dissertation (15-20,000 words) 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 a thorough grounding in all aspects of vertebrate zooarchaeology, including general aspects that are applicable to invertebrate zooarchaeology
  • show experience of the processes of data collection, analysis and interpretation, both in principle and in practice
  • show a range of analytical abilities by studying and undertaking quantitative analysis of zooarchaeological data
  • demonstrate essential critical skills through reviewing and assessing published work from throughout the world, including hunter-gatherer and agrarian sites, and socially complex societies
  • study the vertebrate skeleton, its evolutionary origins and its adaptations
  • identify and record archaeological bone assemblages
  • review the field of taphonomy and the practical recognition of the taphonomic ‘imprint’
  • demonstrate independent research skills after completing a dissertation project
The modules offered are diverse and cover all aspects zooarchaeological practice and techniques. Furthermore, optional modules allow freedom to study topics of interest such as field archaeology and artefacts. Through this structure I learnt many new skills whilst developing existing ones.
Ewan, MSc Zooarchaeology (2014)

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 that you 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.

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

The course is based at BioArCh, York's world-leading centre for research into ancient biomolecules, housed within the Department of Environment and Geography on Campus West, while the majority of your teaching will take place in the adjacent PalaeoHub, a new facility (opened 2018) 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
  • Or alternative assessment methods such as film-making, blogging or posters

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.

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


Career opportunities

Recent graduates have gone on to positions within the following fields and roles:

  • Academia
  • Professional archaeologists – field and laboratory based
  • Museum outreach programmes and the heritage sector
  • University/research technicians
  • Commercial laboratory technicians
  • US graduate school programmes

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

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
  • A good honours degree (upper second or first class) in a relevant subject, or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution in archaeology, anthropology or a related field.
Other qualifications
  • Graduates in a biological subject will also be considered, as will mature students or those with less conventional qualifications but with relevant experience.

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.

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