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BSc (Hons) Bioarchaeology

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

Year of entry: 2019

UCAS code

V403

Institution code

Y50

Length

3 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

ABB-BBB (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

UK/EU fees

£9,250 per year (2019/20)

International fees

£17,120 per year (2019/20)

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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 haircombs 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 once cooked in prehistoric pottery - I get to interpret how some of the world’s earliest pots were used by people, whilst also developing advanced Biology and Chemistry laboratory skills.
David, BSc Bioarchaeology

Academically excellent

Archaeology at York is 12th in the World for Archaeology (QS World Rankings 2018) and 10th in the UK (Times Good University Guide 2019).

Engaged and supportive staff

Our lecturers love to teach in their own fields of research, which means you gain current and cutting edge knowledge. They'll help you get the most out of your archaeology degree.

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

You can opt to study abroad during your degree.

Gaining a place on our European Exchange allows you to study for a year at the University of Lund, Sweden. 

Alternatively, the University offers worldwide exchange programmes to North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia and South Africa.

If you don't fancy spending a whole year abroad, you can apply for one of the University's study centres or summer schools and spend your summer abroad.

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

During your second year, you can begin to choose modules that interest you.

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 (20 credits)​. 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 (20 credits). You'll choose from roughly seven options. Some Practical Skills modules offered recently have included:

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

In your final year, there are no core modules. You'll complete a second World Archaeology module, a Special Topic, an Assessed Seminar and your dissertation.

You'll be able to choose your World Archaeology II module (10 credits) from around five options. Please note that the options may not be the same as in your second year. Examples include:

The Special Topics (30 credits) 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 from you to choose from. Recent examples include:

The Assessed Seminars (40 credits) are a unique opportunity to focus your studies on exactly what interests you. 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:

Finally, you'll complete a Dissertation and Assessed Lecture (40 credits). The dissertation is around 10,000 words and on a topic you choose. 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

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
The thing I enjoyed most about first year were the seminars. I was really nervous to begin with but over the course of the year your confidence builds and the chance to discuss history, theory and practice with your peers and an experienced seminar leader becomes invaluable.
Matt, BA Archaeology, 2nd Year. See more student profiles

Fees and funding

The fees and funding figures below are for 2019 entry. If you take a year abroad or year in industry you'll pay a reduced rate of fees for that year.

Annual tuition fees

UK/EU International
£9,250 £17,120

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.

Funding

We offer a number of scholarships to help cover tuition fees and living costs.

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.

Outstanding and unique facilities

We are based in the historic King's Manor, located in the city centre right next door to York Minster, and once used by Henry VIII. We also have excellent facilities on the main campus in our Bioarchaeology labs. A dedicated experimental archaeology centre is located nearby.

Hands-on experience

We provide hands-on skills in fieldwork throughout the first year, culminating with the first year excavation in the summer term. Even if you're not interesting in becoming a field archaeologist, this is a way to make friends and make lasting friendships with others in your year.

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 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. 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

As a guide, students on this course typically spend their time as follows:

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Lectures and seminars300 hours156 hours72 hours

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

The rest of your time on the course will be spent on independent study. This may include preparation for lectures and seminars, 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 1200 hours a year learning.

Facilities

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%
Coursework59%67%77%
Practical exams8%16%23%

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

I really enjoyed the science workshops and my heritage field school where I was working as part of team building an audio guide. Never in a million years did I think I would have used some digital work in my archaeology degree (and it was so cool!).
Emmeline, BA Archaeology and Heritage, 2nd Year. See more student profiles

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.

Studying Archaeology doesn't mean you have to become an archaeologist, however! 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 - a combination not often found in graduates today.

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 kickstart your career. York is a real centre for the heritage industry, and you'll have the option to create links with museums and heritage organisations through optional volunteering, internships and placements.

We provide careers support throughout your degree. From information sessions to CV support, we're passionate about helping you find your way after you graduate. Our lecturers can give advice and feedback, and may even help you get a foothold in industry.

Career opportunities

Our graduates have gone on to work in:

 

 

 

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

Some early career examples include:

  • Broadcast journalist at the BBC
  • Project archaeologist, York Archaeological Trust
  • Civil service fast streamer
  • Stained glass conservator
  • Architectural researcher for a media company
  • Assistant curator, York army museum

Transferable skills

The wide range of assessment types in our degrees, from chairing seminars, managing projects and giving public lectures, ensures you'll graduate with a huge range of transferable skills.

These include:

  • 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-BBB (A level General Studies and Critical Thinking are accepted). You need a science A level (Maths, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Geology).

Access to Higher Education Diploma Obtain Access to HE Diploma with 36 credits at Distinction and 9 credits at Merit or higher
BTEC BTEC National Extended Diploma with DDM
Cambridge Pre-U D3, M2, M2 - M2, M2, M2
European Baccalaureate Overall average grade of 75% or higher
Irish leaving Certificate H2,H2,H3,H3,H3,H3 / H3,H3,H3,H3,H3,H3
Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers AAABB-AABBB
EPQ

If you achieve a C or higher at EPQ, you will be eligible for a reduced offer, one grade below our typical offer.

English language

  • IELTS: 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in all units
  • Pearson PTE Academic: 61 overall with 51 in all parts
  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE): grade A
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade C
  • GCSE/IGCSE/O level English Language (as a first language): Grade C

Applying

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

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Learn more

Department of Archaeology

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