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Admission requirements

Bioarchaeology 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.
Analysis of the human skeleton is absolutely integral to understanding the past, as it provides primary evidence of the people enacting and experiencing the world.
The focus of this class is the identification of human skeletal and dental remains, and then to apply this knowledge to learn more about individuals and populations.

In block 1 you 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 block 1 you will be able to distinguish animal from human bones, and identify fragmentary skeletal material, as is common in many archaeological settings.
In block 2 learning will be built upon the identification and analysis skills learned in the first block. You 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.

In block 1 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 practice the identification of skeletal elements and landmarks during open laboratory time.
In block 2 there will be 4 lab exercises interspersed through the block.
This course places strong emphasis on laboratory assignments in order to teach students how to properly use and apply key methods. As a strongly practical-based subject, success requires independent and pro-active learning.

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

  • Lectures;

  • Practical sessions.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 13 × 3 hours of lectures (3 ects);

  • 10 × 3 hours of practical sessions (1,5 ects);

  • 350 pages of literature (2,5 ects);

  • Excercise/ assignments (3 ects).

Assessment method

  • Block 1: Practical examination: Bone Bell Ringer Test (30%) and essay (20%);

  • Block 2: 4 Laboratory Exercises (20%) and final exam (30%).

The final grades are to be determined 3 weeks after the final exam.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, 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;

  • S. Mays, The Archaeology of Human Bones.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact mw. dr. S.A. Inskip.


Compulsory attendance.