Advanced Human Osteology (ARCM405)

StaffDr Catriona Mckenzie - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Pre-requisitesARCM012 - Skeletal Anatomy
Duration of Module Term 2: 10 weeks;

Module aims

This module forms an in-depth study of human remains from archaeological contexts that are also applicable to those encountered in forensic contexts. It consists of a consideration of the physical anthropological techniques employed in the analysis of human skeletal material with an emphases on the metric and non-metric characterisation of skeletal shape and size, and application of demographic reference standards for age and sex determination.

The aim of this module is to provide you with the knowledge to assess human remains at both individual and population levels and to interpret the demographic and pathological data in the light of their archaeological or forensic context. It also provides an introduction to the means by which to investigate human health and well-being of past human groups through an emphasis on the identification, description, and recording of pathological lesions in human skeletal remains.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Master key concepts of human osteology
  • 2. Use terms and conventions commonly employed in biological anthropology accurately
  • 3. Demonstrate familiarity with the use of osteoarchaeological standards for the assessment of human skeletal remains
  • 4. Demonstrate familiarity with methods of identification, description and diagnosis of pathological change in the skeleton and dentition

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Show initiative in interpreting a variety of information forms

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate competence in summarising published research
  • 7. Demonstrate competent knowledge base in written work
  • 8. Demonstrate mastery of academic discourse, both oral and written

Syllabus plan

Each week you will cover different topics to learn about the analysis of human skeletal remains. The course covers estimation of sex, age, ancestry, stature and then outlines the palaeopathological lesions which may be identified in human skeletal remains. 

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 Teaching40Educational package sessions (10 x 4 hours)
Guided Independent Study110Private 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
Skeletal report 1004000 words plus appendix1-10Oral 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
Skeletal reportSkeletal report (4000 words plus appendix)1-10Referral/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 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Aufderheide, A.C. and Rodriquez-Martin, C. (1998). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Paleopathology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK).
  • Baker, B.J., Dupras, T.L., and Tocheri, M.W. (2005). The Osteology of Infants and Children. Texas A & M University Press. College Station (TX).
  • Bass, W.M. (1987). Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. Missouri Archaeological Society, Columbia (MO).
  • Buikstra, J.E. and Beck, L.A. (eds.) (2006). Bioarchaeology: The Contextual Analysis of Human Remains. Academic Press, Amsterdam.
  • Buikstra, J.E. and Ubelaker, D.H. (eds.) (1994). Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains. Arkansas Archaeological Survey, Fayetteville (AR).
  • Cox, M. and May, S. (eds.) (2000). Human Osteology in Archaeology and Forensic Science. Greenwich Medical Media, London.
  • Hillson, S. (1986). Teeth. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK). Hillson, S. (1996). Dental Anthropology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK).
  • Krogman, W.M. and Iscan, M.Y. (1986). The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine. Charles C. Thomas Publishers, Springfield (IL).
  • Larsen, C.S. (1997). Bioarchaeology. Interpreting Behaviour from the Human Skeleton. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Gowland, R. and Knsel, C.J. (eds.) 2006. Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Oxbow Books, Oxford. Mays, S. (1998). The Archaeology of Human Bones. Routledge, London.
  • Ortner, D.J. (2003). Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains. (Second Edition). Academic Press, Amsterdam.
  • Roberts, C.A. and Cox, M. (2003). Health and Disease in Britain: From Prehistory to the Present Day. Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Gloucestershire.
  • Roberts, C.A. and Manchester, K.M. (2005). The Archaeology of Disease. Alan Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Gloucester (UK).
  • Saunders, S.R., Katzenberg, M.A. (eds.) (2008). Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton. Wiley, New York.
  • van Beek, G.C. (1983). Dental Morphology: An Illustrated Guide. (Second Edition). Wright, Oxford.
  • White, T.D. and Folkens, P.A. (1999). Human Osteology. Academic Press, New York. (most recent edition)

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Key words search

Archaeology, Human Osteology, Biological, Anthropology, Bioarchaeology