Funerary Osteoarchaeology (ARC3611)

StaffDr Catriona Mckenzie - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
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

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 teaching activities22Lectures (11 x 2 hrs)
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
Essay502,000 words1-6Verbal and written
Exam501.5 hours1-6Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay 2000 words1-6Referred/deferred period
ExamExam1.5 hours1-6Referred/deferred period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative basic reading list:

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

Films (as indicated above)

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

October 2008

Last revision date


Key words search

Funerary, osteoarchaeology, archaeology, death, burial