ARMAHR-Analysis of Human Remains

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Mary Lewis


Type of module:

Summary module description:

This highly practical module provides the essential methods and skills you will need for the advanced study of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts. You will apply the most recent approaches used to assess sex, age, stature, handedness, ancestry, and parity in adult skeletal remains, as well as learn a broad range of metrical and non-metrical measures in both adults and children. The specific techniques required to analyse non-adult human remains will be explored. The history, development and limitations of each method will be outlined through a series of fully-illustrated lectures and reinforced during the practical class.


This module will provide you with the professional techniques you require to practice human osteology for both commercial units and during primary research.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Assessable outcomes

At the end of the module you will have gained:

  • a comprehensive and systematic understanding of limitations and advantages of osteological techniques

  • skills to accurately assign sex, age, stature and other estimates to adult skeletal remains

  • skills to accurately record age and other estimates to non-adult skeletal remains

  • the ability to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate your conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences

  • the ability to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in human osteology, to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

  • a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights regarding skeletal evidence and how it can be used to infer mortuary behaviour as well as aspects of the life of past societies

Additional outcomes:

The laboratory practicals are designed to develop osteological skills and to reinforce information and practices outlined in the lectures through problem-based learning. You will learn to work effectively both independently, and in groups to gain information from human skeletal material. 

Outline content:

Lectures and practicals will cover: sex assessment in adults and non-adults; ageing adults and non-adults; stature and body mass; handedness and fluctuating/directional asymmetry; growth and development; parity; ancestry; puberty; cremations and report writing.

Global context (where appropriate)

The methods you will use have been developed by North American and European anthropologists. The special significance of international standards for assessing the biological identity of individuals from different geographical regions will be emphasised.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Each session will comprise a 1.5-hour introductory lecture followed by a 2.5 hour practical where methods outlined in the lecture will be applied to an adult skeleton. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 16.5
Practicals classes and workshops 25
Supervised time in studio/workshop 11
Guided independent study: 147.5
Total hours by term 201
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 30
Report 70

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

You will be expected to produce a concise 'professional' human skeletal report as part of your vocational development (4500 words max). This will comprise data for one skeleton based on your assessment and a compilation of data from the rest of the skeletons analysed by the group. You will also be required to submit a critique of a particular osteological method based on a key publication (1000 words max). 

Formative assessment methods:

In each of the 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. 

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Assessment requirements for a pass:


Reassessment arrangements:

Resubmission of coursework in September.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 10 April 2019


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