AR3S19-Palaeopathology: Health and Disease in the Past

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Pre-requisites: AR2F16 Introduction to Human Osteoarchaeology
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Mary Lewis


Type of module:

Summary module description:
Palaeopathology is the study of the history of disease using primary information from human skeletal remains. It takes a multidisciplinary approach linking the biological evidence for disease with cultural contextual data. The study of health and disease in the past is a critical element of any archaeological cemetery investigation and this module provides the skills needed for human osteologists to fully interpret the skeletal data and address archaeological questions in their specialist reports. This module covers the recognition and significance of conditions such as tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, trauma and osteoarthritis. The key text for this module is: Roberts C, and Manchester K (2005) The Archaeology of Disease: Third Edition. Gloucester: Sutton Publishing.

Please note that this module is closed to non-Archaeology students.

This module aims to introduce the range of pathological lesions evidence on the human skeleton, their description, diagnosis and relevance to the reconstruction of past human health.

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

  • identify and describe the range of pathological lesions evident on the human skeleton
  • appraise critically the various types of evidence (archaeological, iconographic, documentary, medical) used in the analysis of past human health
  • assess the relevance, theoretical and practical, of palaeopathological analysis in the interpretation of past populations and their environment
  • recognise and critically appraise theoretical approaches to the subject
  • organise the information to articulate an argument in writing

Additional outcomes:
The practicals encourage students to make use of, and further develop their oral skills in group discussions and to development and apply problem-solving skills. The requirement to search for and locate information independently will provide opportunities for students to develop research skills and apply their IT skills.

Outline content:
Palaeopathology is the study of the history of disease using primary information from human skeletal remains and secondary sources such as archaeological, ethnographical, iconographic, documentary and clinical data. It takes a multidisciplinary approach linking the biological evidence for disease with cultural contextual data. This unit will introduce diagnostic criteria and archaeological/historical information for the prevalence of chronic diseases such as trauma, osteoarthritis, dental disease, leprosy, syphilis and tuberculosis. The use of these data for reconstructing dietary and health patterns in past populations will be a recurring theme throughout the module.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Weekly illustrated lectures (1.5-hours) will be supported by nine 2-hour laboratory sessions where student will learn to recognise and describe pathological lesions on the human skeleton.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 13.5
Practicals classes and workshops 18
Guided independent study 168.5
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Practical skills assessment 10
Class test administered by School 30

Summative assessment- Examinations:
One-hour practical test to be held in the laboratory

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
Students will write an essay focussed on one particular aspect of palaeopathology to allow a more in-depth knowledge of the importance of a single disease or disease category to be developed. The lab-based palaeopathology test will then assess the student's wider knowledge and practical skills in identifying human trauma and pathology in archaeological remains. The short written exercise specifically assess the key skill of providing an accurate description of a lesion.

Formative assessment methods:
In each practical session, the student will be provided with immediate feedback on their progress and use of terminology through informal discussions with the lecturer. Students will have the option of submitting their lab assignments (i.e. recording dental disease) to the lecturer for formative feedback. Throughout the module, students will be encouraged to present their finding to the rest of the class.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (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.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 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: 20 April 2018


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