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Advanced Methods and Issues in Human Osteoarchaeology


Admission requirements

  • Admission to the Research Master Archaeology programme;

  • BA3 course Osteoarchaeology or an advanced undergraduate Osteology class deemed to be equivalent by the instructor.


This is a graduate seminar in advanced human osteology designed to further knowledge about what human remains can tell us about the past. This class is for students who already have comprehensive training in the identification and basic analysis of human skeletal remains. It will be necessary for students who are developing research topics for their Master’s theses in osteoarchaeology, and of value to students who want to acquire the knowledge necessary to undertake doctoral research that involves human osteology.

The course emphasises how the application of scientific methods and the integration of biological and archaeological evidence to research hypotheses can aid in enhancing our reconstructions of human history. Methods covered include forensic anthropology, growth‐related studies, biomechanics, dental anthropology, stable isotope and trace element analysis, and metric and non‐metric variation.

RMSc-students’ assignments will have a different focus, involving enhanced depth and critical review with additional minimum requirements for the number of referenced sources.
Written (i.e. essays) and oral (i.e. presentations) assignments will involve researching a topic to achieve comprehension of its significance to the field as a whole, utilising critical thinking skills, and formulating directions for innovative new research.

Course objectives

  • To develop an understanding of current methodological and theoretical topics in biological anthropology;

  • To increase knowledge about science-based approaches within the field of osteoarchaeology;

  • To practice basic human osteology identification and reporting skills;

  • To acquire professional presentation and instruction skills;

  • To further critical thinking skills;

  • To critically review the significance of current research within the field as a whole;

  • To report such reviews in written and oral formats;

  • To formulate new and innovative directions of research.

Time schedule

Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture;

  • Discussion;

  • Open laboratory time.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • Lectures (1,5 ec);

  • Laboratory work (0,5 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Essay (1,500-1,800 words) (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Laboratory assignment (15%);

  • Presentation of textbook chapter (25%);

  • Weekly participation (20%);

  • Research paper (40%).

To pass the course the final cumulative grade must be 6.0 or higher. A retake is only possible for the research paper and only if all other requirements have been met.

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the RMA and RMSc examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. J.E. (Jason) Laffoon.


Compulsory attendance.