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BSc (Hons) Bioarchaeology

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

Year of entry: 2021/22

UCAS code


Institution code



3 years full-time (plus optional placement year)

Typical offer

ABB (full entry requirements)

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

UK (home) fees

£9,250 per year

International and EU fees

£18,350 per year

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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

Course content

Our five undergraduate courses all have a common first year, so it's easy to change between them.

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, you'll 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  (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 Topic. These 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

The fees and funding figures below are for 2021/22 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 (home) International and EU
£9,250 £18,350

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

Fees for subsequent years

  • UK (home): 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 and EU students are subject to annual increases. Increases are currently capped at two per cent each year.

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 2021/22 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.

Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)

We hope to deliver this course as advertised for 2021/22 entry, but it’s unclear when we’ll be able to return to a normal timetable. For an idea of how this course might be affected, see our changes for 2020/21 entry.

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

Timetabled activities

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.

Outside your timetabled hours, you'll study independently. This may include preparation for classes, follow-up work, wider reading, practise completion of assessment tasks, or revision.

In the UK, full-time students are expected to spend 1,200 hours a year learning. That's about 40 hours of classes and independent study each week during term time. Everyone learns at a different rate, so the number of hours you spend on independent study will be different to other students on your course.


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

In 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
  • a student common room for working and socialising
  • our own cafe

On Campus West, we also have our own purpose-built Bioarchaeology labs and our dedicated York Experimental Archaeology Research (YEAR) Centre. Bioarchaeology 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

You'll have full access to the main campus library and other University resources, including the Borthwick Institute for Archives. You'll also have access to 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
  • a variety of photo and imaging technology

Teaching location

The Department of Archaeology is located in 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 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 including science-related credits and 15 credits at Merit or higher.
BTEC National Extended Diploma DDM including some science-related modules.
Cambridge Pre-U D3, M2, M2 including at least one science subject
European Baccalaureate 75% or higher including a science.
International Baccalaureate 34 points including a science or mathematics at Higher Level
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Alternative offers

Meeting the following additional criteria may qualify you for an alternative offer.

Criteria Adjustment
Widening participation If you successfully complete one of the following programmes, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to two A level grades (or equivalent) below our typical offer: Next Step York, Realising Opportunities. More about widening participation.
Contextual offers If you have experience of local authority care or live in an area with low progression to university, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer. More about contextual offers.
EPQ If you achieve C or higher at EPQ, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer.
Core Maths If you achieve B or higher in Core Maths, you may be eligible for an alternative offer up to one A level grade (or equivalent) below our typical offer.

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 55 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 in each component
TOEFL 87 overall, with a minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all components
Duolingo 110 overall, with a minimum of 100 in each component

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 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.


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

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Department of Archaeology

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