Osteoarchaeology, MSc

Osteoarchaeology, MSc


This programme uses the unique archaeological collections of the University of Aberdeen, combined with the latest osteoarchaeological approaches and techniques, to provide students with the knowledge and practical skills to analyse human skeletons from archaeological contexts.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month

The University of Aberdeen’s Marischal Museum holds thousands of human skeletons from research and rescue excavations. Located in the iconic Marischal College building, in the heart of the city of Aberdeen, this collection includes extensive archaeological human skeletal collections, from Neolithic to Medieval and post-Medieval remains. In particular the collection has a rich assemblage of material from the major medieval towns of Aberdeen, Perth, and St Andrews, as well as prehistoric material from Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.

These collections provide unparalleled research and teaching opportunities for students at the University of Aberdeen. Students will actively work on these extensive and nationally significant collections and where possible, publish the results as part of student/staff projects. As part of the programme, students also have the option to take advanced modules in funerary archaeology and ancient biomolecules (aDNA, isotopes, proteins and lipids).

This programme in the developing field of Human Osteoarchaeology (the study of human remains) will provide the knowledge and practical skills to unlock the rich stories of the human past, equipping students with the knowledge to understand some of the major trends in the development of human lifeways and societies.

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Human Osteology (AY5008)

30 Credit Points

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.

Optional Courses

Select ONE from the following:

Theory and Method in Research (AY5002)

30 Credit Points

In this course students will follow the development of archaeological thought from its roots in the scientific revolution of the 17th century through to the post-modern thinkers and finally discovering where the current theoretical debates stand. Students will explore the links between the theoretical development of archaeological research and the general developments in the history of science and philosophy. Students also explore different methodologies central to archaeological research, discuss what constitute archaeological data, and how to design a research project. Students will also discuss research ethics, and scientific agendas. These issues are explored through a series of lectures and seminars.

Ancient Biomolecules (AY5011)

30 Credit Points

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

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Ancient Health and Disease (AY5506)

30 Credit Points

This course provides students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed in order to identify, and interpret, palaeopathological changes observed in archaeological human remains. You will also gain an understanding of how such changes could have affected people in the past, and how, using a bioarchaeological approach, this data may inform the archaeological narrative.

Optional Courses

Select ONE of the following:

Advanced Archaeological Approaches (AY5504)

30 Credit Points

As an advanced engagement with current trends and approaches in Northern Archaeology students examine current cutting edge debates associated with new theories and methodologies in archaeological research. Students will encounter the versatility of methodological and theoretical approaches in Northern research through four different themes central to the Archaeology of the North; Body and Death, Heritage and Memory, Social Space and Structures, Human and Environment. Each theme is explored through series of research led seminars and a practical, approaching the theme from different theoretical/methodological angels. The main assessment of the course is an Internal Masters Conference on these four themes.

The Archaeology of Death (AY5512)

30 Credit Points

Archaeologists are accused of not engaging with the significance of skeletal remains, osteologists are accused of not engaging with the mortuary context. This course aims to draw both worlds together and understand the complex and intertwined relationships between the two. Incorporating archaeological studies of skeletons and mortuary sites, as well as ethical, anthropological and forensic perspectives, you will explore and work to understand how people in the past reacted to, and dealt with, the realities of the inevitable.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Osteoarchaeology Dissertation (AY5905)

60 Credit Points

To provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate that you are able to complete a substantial and original piece of research on a specialist topic within human osteoarchaeology you will produce an analytical osteoarchaeological project that includes necessary analysis, laboratory work and 12,000 words.

We will endeavour to make all course options available. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £22,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
UK £10,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Fee Information

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our Tuition Fees page.


Self-funded international students enrolling on postgraduate taught (PGT) programmes will receive one of our Aberdeen Global Scholarships, ranging from £3,000 to £8,000, depending on your domicile country. Learn more about the Aberdeen Global Scholarships here.

To see our full range of scholarships, visit our Funding Database.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Classes are taught through lectures, small group tutorials and seminars. A main focus of the MSc is development of individual research skills through dissertation work.

Assessment for each 30-credit taught module is on the basis of one 3000-word essay and one 3000-word project on topics relevant to the course. The nature of the project may vary from course to course and include reports, exercises and oral presentations.

Why Study Osteoarchaeology?

  • Students benefit from hands on access to the University’s unrivalled collection of human skeletons.
  • This programme benefits from significant input from other related research being carried out at Aberdeen into human remains, including multi-isotopic analyses, the Alaska project and cemetery studies and human remains research in the Northern Picts project.
  • Student numbers on the programme are small enough to allow for a strong level of teaching interaction and relationship building amongst students.
  • Archaeology at Aberdeen has a special high-latitude focus that is found nowhere else.
  • Reflecting this, our staff are prominent researchers and fieldworkers in Northern Europe, Scandinavia, the North Atlantic and the circumpolar region from Siberia to the Canadian arctic. Closer to home, the archaeology of Scotland is a natural priority.
  • Geographically, we are ideally suited to access some of the country’s most interesting archaeological sites.
  • You will be taught by a dedicated team of Archaeologists with a broad range of expertise and teaching experience. 
  • Archaeological research at Aberdeen spans the arts and humanities, physical and biological sciences, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the Archaeology and the collaborative ethos within the University. 
  • The University of Aberdeen Department of Archaeology, in partnership with the village corporation Qanirtuuq, Inc. and the Yup’ik village of Quinhagak, Alaska, is working to record archaeological sites threatened by rising sea levels along the Bering Sea. This is something you could volunteer to be part of.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours degree, or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth in Archaeology, Anthropology or a related discipline.

2:2 in Archaeology or related discipline plus related professional experience.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Aberdeen Global Scholarship

Eligible self-funded postgraduate taught (PGT) students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Explore our Global Scholarships, including eligibility details, on our dedicated page.

Aberdeen Global Scholarships


An Archaeology degree can be the gateway to many other professions, and the training in analytical and communication skills acquired by our graduates make them employable in a wide variety of fields including industry, commerce and research.

The broad-based nature of the discipline enables graduates to compete strongly in the employment market place. Today Archaeologists in the UK work in an increasingly wide range of professions. A significant percentage of graduates are employed in private or university-based archaeological units and consultancies. These professionals are responsible for mitigating the impact to archaeological sites in relation to different forms of development. Typically, such posts involve a good deal of fieldwork and the production of high quality scientific reports.

Others graduates go on to research, teaching and curatorial posts in universities, museums and private institutions and work in a range of areas from interpreting ancient environments to communicating archaeology to the public. In addition to more traditional occupations, a growing number of Archaeologists are now employed by a range of governmental and non-governmental heritage organizations.

Careers in this area are primarily involved in making decisions about the management and conservation of archaeological resources at local, national and international levels. Archaeologists and individuals with archaeological training also work in a growing number of non-traditional careers where archaeological knowledge is central. These positions range widely, from jobs with engineering firms, where knowledge of archaeological principals can be crucial to project planning, to careers which engage the public's appreciation of the past.

Anthropology & Archaeology ranked 4th in the UK

Anthropology & Archaeology at Aberdeen is ranked 4th in the UK by the Guardian University Guide 2024.

Our Experts

Other Experts
Dr Kate Britton
Dr Jeff Oliver
Programme Coordinator
Dr Charlotta Hillerdal

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX