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Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

This course provides a broad introduction to the field of Biomolecular Archaeology and the study of ancient biomolecules. In a series of lectures, seminars and practicals, you will learn key theoretical concepts, principles, and laboratory methods underpinning state-of-the-art research on ancient biomolecules, such as DNA, proteins and lipids

Course Details

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

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

Ancient biomolecules are often preserved in archaeological skeletal remains or artefacts and provide a means to answer a wide range of archaeological questions. DNA analysis can provide information on biological sex, kinship, and population affinities, in addition to health and disease via the study of pathogens and oral microbiomes. Stable isotope analysis on bone proteins (collagen) or other skeletal components such as apatite offer insights to past diets, movements, palaeoecology and even climate, and lipids extracted from potsherds can provide direct evidence of which foodstuffs were processed in different types of vessels.


The aim of this course is to provide students with a broad knowledge and understanding of key theory and principles underpinning the study of ancient biomolecules, and an introduction to laboratory methods for extracting and analysing ancient DNA, and stable isotopes found in bone collagen and other tissues. Lectures will cover basic and advanced, research-informed theory and real-world examples on how ancient biomolecules are becoming increasingly integrated in archaeological research. Student-led seminars will cover recent examples from the literature on state-of-the-art application and analysis of ancient biomolecules for the resolution of a wide range of archaeological questions. The course offers a broad introduction to the field of Biomolecular Archaeology and Bioarchaeological Science and will guide students in their further specialisation on courses in semester 2, and for choosing a dissertation topic in semester 3

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

100% in course assessment:

Presentation (pre-recorded) followed by a discussion seminar (30%)

3000 word Essay (50%)

Participation based on seminars (20%)

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualUnderstandDemonstrate a systematic and critical understanding of the theory and principles underpinning the study of ancient biomolecules
ProceduralApplyApply a range of practical and analytical techniques for collecting biomolecular data
ProceduralAnalyseCritically assess published research and demonstrate critical awareness of methodological limitations in bioarchaeological science approaches
ProceduralEvaluateIntegrate and critically evaluate the study of ancient biomolecules for the resolution of archaeological questions

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