AR2F16-Introduction to Human Osteoarchaeology

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Dr Mary Lewis


Summary module description:
This module covers the study of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts and the contribution their analysis makes to our understanding of past societies. This module is a pre-requisite for the Part 3 module AR3S6: Palaeopathology.

Please note this module is closed to non-Archaeology students

This module aims to make you familiar with the human skeleton and to develop your understanding of the ‘biocultural approach’ in the study of past populations.

Preparatory reading includes:
White, T and Folkens P. 2005. The Human Bone Manual. Academic Press: New York
Roberts CA. 2009. Human Remains in Archaeology. A Handbook. CBA Practical Handbook 19: York.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • evaluate the nature and quality of skeletal evidence, and explain how it can be used to infer mortuary behaviour as well as aspects of the life of past societies
  • identify both adult and non-adult human skeletal remains and teeth, whether intact or fragmentary
  • assign an age, sex and stature estimate to adult human remains
  • identify normal from pathological changes to the skeleton

Additional outcomes:
Practicals are designed to develop osteological skills and to reinforce information and practices outlined in the lectures. Students will learn to work both independently, and in groups to gain information from human skeletal material.

Outline content:
Students will be introduced to the key methods employed by human bone specialists (osteoarchaeologists) in the examination of human remains, from their excavation, to the estimation of age, sex, stature and pathology. You will also be taught to identify human material from non-human and to identify and side fragmentary remains commonly encountered during an archaeological excavation, and post-excavation analysis.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Each session will comprise a one-hour introductory lecture followed by a practical where methods outlined in the lecture will be applied to an adult skeleton.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 9
Practicals classes and workshops 20
Guided independent study 71
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Report 80
Class test administered by School 20

Other information on summative assessment:
You will be expected to produce a 'professional' human skeletal report as part of your vocational development. The practical test will assess your osteological skills in determining adult age, sex and stature, and test your familiarity with the human skeleton through your ability to recognise human bone fragments.

Formative assessment methods:
In each of the nine practical sessions you will be tested on your knowledge of human skeletal anatomy and use of terminology through informal discussions with the demonstrators and lecturer. In this way you will be provided with immediate feedback on your progression, and ways in which you can improve your skills. You will learn how to work both independently (through production of your report) and as part of a team (with your lab partner).

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    A one-hour practical test in the laboratory

    Requirements for a pass:
    40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Reassessment of coursework and/or re-examination in August/September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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