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BSc (Hons) Bioarchaeology

Investigate ancient populations through the study of bones, DNA and environmental evidence

Year of entry: 2020

UCAS code


Institution code



3 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

ABB (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2020 (term dates)

UK/EU fees

£9,250 per year (2020/21)

International fees

£17,890 per year (2020/21)

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Bioarchaeology enables us to paint a more vivid picture of the human past.

Through isotopic analysis of remains from archaeological sites, we can discover what past diets were like, where people came from and whether they travelled long distances in their lifetimes. We can analyse the proteins in fragments of Viking-Age hair combs to find out which animal they were made from, or examine ancient DNA to better understand our human timeline. 

Our BSc Bioarchaeology is perfect for students studying a science subject who are interested in history and ancient populations. York is home to BioArCh, a collaborative research facility formed by the Archaeology, Biology and Chemistry Departments. The centre is internationally recognised, with a unique concentration of expertise in human palaeoecology and environmental archaeology.

Our department is renowned for being friendly and welcoming, meaning you'll get to know your lecturers, and they'll get to know you. You'll have endless opportunities to get involved, from joining the Archaeology Society to working abroad on a research project. We're based in the King's Manor in the city centre, a beautiful and truly unique Medieval building, with additional state-of-the-art facilities on the main campus. 

York is the UK’s archaeological capital, with historic buildings and significant remains from the Roman, Viking and Medieval periods. You'll find it a great place to call home.

My dissertation involves analysing residues of foods in prehistoric pottery - I get to interpret how some of the world’s earliest pots were used, whilst also developing advanced Biology and Chemistry laboratory skills.
David, BSc Bioarchaeology

UK top 10

We're ranked 6th in the UK and 15th in the world for archaeology.
Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020; QS World Rankings by Subject 2019.

Happy students

We scored 93% for 'Overall Satisfaction' in the 2019 National Student Survey, and achieved over 90% in five of the assessed areas.

Unique location

York is the UK’s archaeological capital, with historic buildings and significant remains from the Roman, Viking and Medieval periods. You'll find it a great place to call home.

Course content

Our five undergraduate courses all have a common first year, so it's easy to change between them. If you choose to transfer onto the BA Archaeology and Heritage, you'll need to complete the heritage project rather than the excavation during the Summer Term.

We emphasise flexibility - there's very little restriction on the modules you can choose to study. You'll get experience in the lab from your second year onwards.

You'll take 120 credits each year - usually two to three modules each term.

Study abroad

There are opportunities for you to spend time abroad during your course:

Archaeology also offers plenty of opportunities during vacation breaks to get involved with research abroad.

Year 1

Core modules

During the Summer Term of your first year, you will take part in an excavation (20 credits).

This will give you hands-on experience in all aspects of assessing, collecting and analysing primary excavation data, as well as post-excavation techniques. It is a unique opportunity to be part of a really exciting phase of a research project.

It is taught during the academic year, so you won't be required to find an excavation placement during the summer vacation. If you are interested in taking part in further excavations during the vacation, we can help you find volunteering and paid opportunities to do further excavations - sometimes abroad!

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module.

Year 2

Core modules

You'll choose whether you want to study Prehistory or Historical Archaeology:

You'll also prepare for your dissertation with the following modules:

Option modules

You'll study one World Archaeology I module​. These options are updated each year, but you'll usually be able to choose from around five options. Examples include:

You'll also study one Practical Skills module. You'll choose from roughly seven options. Recent examples include:

During the Summer Term, you'll complete a team project (20 credits) which follows on from your Practical Skills module. Using the subject-specific knowledge you have gained, you will work as a group to analyse and interpret data, and produce a report to a professional standard.

Year 3


The dissertation is an extended piece of writing, around 10,000 words, on a topic of your choice. You'll be assigned a supervisor who'll support you through the process. After writing your dissertation, you will present your work in the form of an assessed lecture.

Recent titles have included:

  • How has bioarchaeological, genetic and dietary evidence shaped and changed our view of Neanderthals?
  • Did the diet of the Jomon culture in Japan, as a result of climate change at around 11,000 years ago?
  • Were high status Romans were more exposed to lead (Pb) than low status Romans?
  • Identifying the consistency of the Viking leather finds from the Coppergate dig with the use of ZooMS
  • Examining Hippocrates, Galen and their medicine in Medieval London

Option modules

You'll choose one World Archaeology II module from around five options, which may not be the same as in your second year. Examples include:

You'll also choose one Special TopicThese modules are linked directly to staff research interests, so you will be engaging with the most up-to-date research and debates in each subject. Each year we offer around six or seven options. Recent examples include:

Assessed Seminars are a unique opportunity to focus your studies on exactly what interests you, and you'll choose one to prepare in the Spring or Summer Term. You'll have some introductory lectures from a specialist in the area, then you'll spend some time designing and chairing your own seminar for your classmates. We offer roughly eight modules per year for you to choose from. Recent examples include:

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

Learning by design

Every course at York has been designed to provide clear and ambitious learning outcomes. These learning outcomes give you an understanding of what you will be able to do at the end of the course. We develop each course by designing modules that grow your abilities towards the learning outcomes and help you to explain what you can offer to employers. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Engage critically in debates around bioarchaeological research that inform current archaeological issues applicable to multiple periods of human society, using evidence from the UK and elsewhere in the world
  • Design, execute and evaluate (bio)archaeological research projects to a standard informed by key theoretical, scientific, legal and professional principles and methodologies in an international context
  • Generate, document and manage primary archaeological data from diverse sources of evidence and contexts and conduct analysis using a range of digital technology
  • Operate effectively as constructive and inclusive leaders and confident participants in teamwork in challenging environments and using data from multi-disciplinary field and/or laboratory projects.
  • Apply critical and creative approaches to problem-solving in complex situations with diverse, fragmentary datasets that reflect biases in their generation, survival, identification and documentation of biological material
  • Resolve challenges in interpretation and presentation from an interdisciplinary perspective with agility and awareness of ethical issues
  • Confidently explain, communicate and debate ideas through written, visual, and oral forms of presentation to a wide range of public and professional audiences using print and digital media
  • Contribute as independent scholars to the field of bioarchaeology through rigorous and imaginative inquiry in multi-disciplinary contexts
I love the variety. I can go from studying complex theories of agency one day to GIS another and ancient DNA the next. The Department clearly prides itself on the quality of its teaching, and responds to feedback from students. The lecturers and seminar leaders are all very knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Dan, BA Archaeology
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Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees

UK/EU International
£9,250 £17,890

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.

Fees for subsequent years

  • UK/EU: further increases within the government fee cap will apply in subsequent academic years. We will notify you of any increase as soon as we can.
  • International: fees for international students are subject to annual increases. Increases are currently capped at 2% per annum.

More information

For more information about tuition fees, any reduced fees for study abroad and work placement years, scholarships, tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and living costs see undergraduate fees and funding.


We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2020/21 throughout the year.

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 Excellence Framework Gold Award

“Students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes”

The TEF Panel, Office for Students, June 2018

Our Gold Teaching Excellence Framework award demonstrates our commitment to the delivery of consistently outstanding teaching and learning for our students.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll study and learn with academics who are active researchers, experts in their field and have a passion for their subjects. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

You'll be taught through a range of lectures, seminars, workshops, practicals, and independent learning projects. All our teaching is research-led, meaning our lecturers are teaching the subjects they're fascinated about, and ensuring you get the most current and cutting-edge knowledge.

We have always been passionate about small group teaching - we feel it is the best way to learn. You'll start off with a variety of teaching formats and as the course progresses you'll spend more time on intensive small group teaching and individual study.

We provide training in presentation skills throughout your course, helping you to prepare for your Assessed Seminar and Assessed Lecture.

Find out more about our teaching

Overall workload

In your first year, you can expect:

Lectures3-5 hours per week
Seminars2 hours per week
Workshops4 hours
Practicals3 weeks
Excavation4 weeks
Field trips6 days
Feedback sessions1-2 hours

These figures are based on an average student in an average week. Your contact hours will vary throughout the year due to your module choices, non-compulsory classes, exam periods and changes to scheduled activities.

The rest of your time on the course will be spent on independent study. This may include preparation for classes, follow-up work, wider reading, practice completion of assessment tasks, or revision.

Everyone learns at a different rate, so the number of hours will vary from person to person. In UK higher education the expectation is that full-time students will spend 1,200 hours a year learning.


At York, you'll have access to a huge range of unique facilities.

In the King's Manor, we have:

  • our own teaching rooms and a state-of-the-art lecture theatre
  • a specialist library with dedicated study spaces
  • a large lab space for working with artefacts, soil and environmental samples, and skeletal remains
  • computer labs with printers, scanners and specialised photo software, digital drawing and mapping software
  • soils analysis facilities (thin sectioning, microscopy, wet chemistry) 
  • an osteology laboratory (human and animal reference collections, digital x-ray facilities)
  • a student common room for working and socialising
  • our own cafe

On Campus West, near the Environment Department, we also have our own purpose-built Bioarchaeology labs. Facilities include:

  • dedicated laboratory for bone preparation (bone saws, drills etc).
  • gas chromatography
  • optical microscopy
  • expansive preparative laboratories
  • scanning and transmission electron microscopy
  • state-of-the-art protein mass spectrometry
  • NERC-recognised amino acid dating facility
  • ZooMS bone identification service
  • state-of-the art Ancient DNA facility

A dedicated experimental archaeology centre is located nearby. You'll also have full access to the main campus library and other University resources, including the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Finally, you'll be able to use an extremely wide range of archaeological equipment, including drones, fieldwork tools, Total Station theodolites, geophysical survey equipment (resistivity, magnetometry, ground penetrating radar), handheld GPS systems, a laser scanner and a variety of photo and imaging technology.

Teaching location

The Department of Archaeology is located in the King's Manor, in the city centre. Our BioArCh and Palaeo facilities are located in or near the Environment Building on Campus West, around 30 minutes walk from the King's Manor.

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'll be assessed using a variety of methods, including essays, exams, assessed presentations and team projects.

During your degree, we'll help you to develop the skills you'll need to approach your assessments, from presentation skills to designing a research study. We'll take the time to provide detailed and personalised feedback on your work, allowing you to improve and refine your work.

Your course will culminate with the exciting challenge of leading and chairing a seminar, organising and presenting a lecture, and researching and writing a dissertation. You'll graduate confident in your ability to cope with challenges and able to apply your skills to many areas of work.

Percentage of the course typically assessed by coursework and exams

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Written exams33%17%0%
Practical exams8%16%23%

The figures above are based on data from 2016/17.

The excavation has been the highlight of my year at York. As a heritage student, I spend a lot of time working with the public. Everyone who came to the site agreed that it was amazing and it’s so fulfilling to be able to share this history with the people closest to it.
Amy, BA Archaeology and Heritage
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Careers and skills

There has never been a better time to study archaeology. With major new infrastructure projects such as HS2 and Crossrail underway, there is a national shortage of archaeologists in the country.

However, studying Archaeology doesn't mean you have to become an archaeologist. Our degrees prepare you for a vast range of careers; the unique combination of humanities and sciences at York means you'll be competent in dealing with data as well as able to produce high-quality essays and reports.

If you're interested in going into the heritage sector, you'll be able to choose modules which provide you with a solid grounding in heritage studies alongside the practical skills needed to kick-start your career. York is a real centre for the heritage industry, and you'll have the opportunity to forge links with museums and heritage organisations through optional volunteering, internships and placements.

Find out more about the careers support we offer.

Career opportunities

Our graduates have gone on to work in:



  • heritage organisations (eg English Heritage, National Trust, Yorkshire Museum)
  • local councils
  • NHS
  • police
  • accountancy
  • media
  • marketing agencies
  • law

Transferable skills

  • critical thinking
  • data analysis and interpretation
  • structuring arguments
  • communication and presentation skills
  • team working
  • leadership skills
  • management skills
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • creativity and innovation

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
A levels

ABB including a science subject (Maths, Physics, Biology, Chemistry or Geology)

Access to Higher Education Diploma 30 credits at Distinction and 15 credits at Merit or higher
BTEC National Extended Diploma DDM
Cambridge Pre-U D3, M2, M2
European Baccalaureate 75% or higher
International Baccalaureate 34 points including a science or mathematics at Higher Level

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, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component
PTE Academic 61, with a minimum of 51 in each component
GCSE/IGCSE/O level English Language (as a first or second language) Grade C
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, with a minimum of 169 each component
TOEFL 87 overall, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking, 17 in Writing

For more information see our undergraduate 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.


To apply to York, you will need to complete an online application via UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

Mature students

We welcome applications from mature students - Archaeology is a popular degree for people coming back to education. If you're interested in studying with us, we encourage you to get in touch to talk about your experience and qualifications.

Next steps

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Get in touch if you have any questions

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Department of Archaeology

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