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Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Bioarcheologie or a 2nd or 3rd-year natural sciences-based course obtained.


Human osteoarchaeology is the study of human skeletal remains found in an archaeological context. The human skeleton is one of the most important pieces to understanding the past, as it provides primary evidence of the people themselves.
The focus of this class is the identification of human skeletal and dental remains. Students will learn basic skeletal biology, how to identify all the bones and teeth in the human skeleton, and major landmarks of each skeletal element.

By the end of this class students will be able to distinguish animal from human bones, and identify fragmentary skeletal material, as is common in many archaeological settings. Each class period will consist of a lecture and demonstration focusing on the skeletal elements you are expected to learn for the week. You are expected to practise the identification of skeletal elements and landmarks during open laboratory time.

Students will learn techniques associated with estimating sex, age-at-death, stature, and ancestry from human skeletal material.
There will also be a brief introduction to palaeopathology and palaeodiet analyses.

Course objectives

  • Identification of all bones, teeth, and major morphological features, of the human skeleton;

  • Ability to distinguish subadult from adult remains;

  • Determination of subadult age using dental and skeletal methods;

  • Experience sorting and identification of commingled, burned, and scavenged assemblages.

  • Learn how to estimate sex from adult cranial and post-cranial material;

  • Learn how to estimate adult age at death using dental and skeletal methods;

  • Learn how to determine stature and body size using anthropometric measurements;

  • Learn how to recognise commonly encountered pathological lesions and trauma in bones and teeth;

  • Become familiar with basic palaeodemographic parameters and problems;

  • Become familiar with methods for estimation of ancestry and reconstruction of diet.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Weekly 2-hour lectures;

  • Weekly 2-hour laboratory study/exercise;

  • Anatomy museum visit.

Assessment method

  • Practical Examination (Bone BellRinger Test);

  • Participation;

  • Laboratory exercises;

  • Final exam.

Assessment deadline

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • T.D. White & P.A. Folkens, The Human Bone Manual. Academic Press (2005);

  • L. Sawchuk, J. Padiak & W. Barek, The Digital Atlas of the Human Skeleton. Free software download;

  • Articles and chapters posted on Blackboard by the instructor.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw. dr. A.L. Waters.