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Biomolecular Archaeology


Admission requirements

  • This is a seminar with a limited amount of participants (20 students), for Archaeology students exclusively;

  • This is not an optional course for the Archaeology BA3 programme. If you want to take this course as an extra-curricular course in your programme, you should ask permission from the Board of Examiners. You can only be admitted with permission, with proper argumentation, and only if there are spots left.


Archaeology increasingly relies on studies of organic and inorganic molecules to understand key aspects of the past.
This course will introduce some major bioarchaeological methods (e.g., aDNA, proteomics, lipid and other residue analyses, spectroscopy (FTIR, Raman, etc.), microremains, etc.).

We will cover their basic principles, potentials, and limitations, the types of archaeological materials that they can be applied to, as well as the unique insights that they can provide.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the molecules that are of use for archaeology;

  • Present the basic underlying theory and principles of the different methods/approaches;

  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the different methods;

  • Justify which method or combination of methods are most appropriate for answering various types of research questions;

  • Consider the future potential of various methods in archaeology;

  • Describe how to prepare archaeological material for analyses using these methods;

  • Interpret different types of biomolecular data.


Course schedule details can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button.

Mode of instruction

Lectures that include introductory content on the underlying chemistry and biology of the molecules under study, presented via relevant case studies.
The lectures will be followed by a structured question/answer session, and/or a tutorial during which raw data is analysed.

Course load

  • 7 x 2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Preparation for each lecture: reading ca. 200 pages (1.5 ec);

  • 14 hours of discussion / practical work (1 ec);

  • Final examination, including short answers and short essays (1.5 ec)

Assessment method

  • Weekly discussion/tutorial (50%) (10% each x 5 in total);

  • Final exam (50%).

All of the weekly discussions / tutorials must be completed in order to pass the course. Only the final exam can be retaken.

Assessment deadlines

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button. To view the assessment deadline(s), make sure to select the course with a code ending in T and/or R.

Reading list

To be announced.


Registration in uSis is mandatory. You can register for this course until 5 days before the first class.

Registration in uSis automatically leads to enrollment in the corresponding Brightspace module. Therefore you do not need to enroll in Brightspace, but make sure to register for this course in uSis.

You are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time. The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, you are not required to do this in uSis.

Start registration for the BA2 seminars:

  • Series 1: 27 September 2021, 07:00 hrs

  • Series 2: 17 January 2022, 07:00 hrs

  • Series 3: 28 February 2022, 07:00 hrs


For more information about this course, please contact dr. A.G. (Amanda) Henry.


Compulsory attendance.