Funerary Osteoarchaeology (ARC3611)

StaffDr Catriona Mckenzie - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will outline the complex and variable funerary treatments of the dead in past societies through a series of lectures. The lectures are focused predominantly on the British Isles, with additional examples included from Europe and the Near East. The lectures trace a chronological development from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Post-Medieval period. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an appreciation for the diversity of funerary behaviour and its use in reconstructing the social organisation of past societies
  • 2. Accurately use terms to describe the position of the skeleton in different funerary contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Apply a biocultural approach to the study of funerary osteoarchaeology
  • 4. Demonstrate an understanding of how the funerary record can be integrated within archaeological discourse

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Critically evaluate information drawn from a variety of sources, including lectures, course literature, and archaeological plans
  • 6. Demonstrate proficiency in written presentation skills

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

The course will start with an introduction to theoretical approaches to osteoarchaeology. The classes will then focus on different time periods starting from the early evidence of burial practices in the Upper Palaeolithic and ending with the post-medieval period.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Guided independent study128Independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay502000 words1-6Oral and written feedback
Examination501.5 hours1-6Oral and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2000 words)1-6Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination (1.5 hours)1-6Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Daniell, C. 1997. Death and Burial in Medieval England. Routledge, London.
  • Gowland, R. and Kn'sel, C.J. (eds.) 2006. Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Oxbow Books, Oxford.
  • Parker-Pearson, M. 1999. The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Sutton, Stroud.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

October 2008

Last revision date


Key words search

Funerary, osteoarchaeology, archaeology, death, burial