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AY5008: HUMAN OSTEOLOGY (2021-2022)

Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

This course will provide you with the knowledge and practical skills required to identify and interpret human remains from archaeological sites. In addition to archaeology these skills are invaluable for any skeletal studies, including paleontology, human and primate evolution and forensic sciences.

Course Details

Study Type Postgraduate Level 5
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Rebecca Crozier

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Postgraduate Programme

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Human remains are one of the most emotive relics of the past, presenting a tangible connection to our ancestors. Recovered from a variety of contexts they have the potential to provide us with a wealth of data e.g. age-at-death, biological sex, health, diet, life-style and mobility, they comprise one of our most significant archaeological finds. This course aims to provide students with the knowledge and practical skills required to identify and interpret human remains from archaeological sites. This course will be of value to any students interested in skeletal studies, including paleontology, human and primate evolution, forensic sciences, and archaeology. By providing students with the essential skills to conduct human skeletal analysis, this course may serve as a foundation for graduate dissertations and/or advanced graduate study within the discipline.

 Human osteoarchaeology is a rapidly advancing field, with new methods and analytical techniques appearing constantly. Therefore, in addition to learning essential skills in the identification and interpretation of human remains, this course will provide students with an overview of more advanced approaches, such as aDNA and stable isotopes. Since the successful study of skeletal remains requires a hands-on approach, this course incorporates a strong practical component, with two thirds of contact time spent in the skeletal laboratory.  Finally, students will gain an appreciation of how to handle human remains during all aspects of recovery and analysis, from the field, to the laboratory, to curation.  The extensive collections of the historic Marischal Museum are central to this course. The museum holds archaeological human skeletal collections from a range of regions and periods, including a large collection from the major medieval towns of eastern Scotland. These collections will be part of teaching and student projects.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1 x Lab Report: Individual (50%)

1 x Lab exit portfolio: Individual (20%)

6 x Test of knowledge of skeletal elements carried out through hands-on with skeletons (5% each – total 30%)

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ProceduralApplyPractical experience of the techniques used in identification and analysis of human skeletal remains (age-at-death, sex, stature).
ProceduralCreatePractical experience producing a report on an archaeological human skeletal assemblage
ConceptualEvaluatedevelop a critical understanding of the relevance of advanced analytical techniques such as ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis
ProceduralEvaluateGain a critical overview of the issues and debates surrounding the study of human remains and ethical considerations.
FactualRememberA working knowledge of the development and structure of the normal human skeleton
FactualRememberThe ability to recognise and name all elements in the human skeleton
ProceduralUnderstandUnderstand the application of techniques used to deal with more complex, commingled assemblages of human remains

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