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MSc Human Bioarchaeology and Paleopathology

The human skeleton is one of the most important sources of evidence for understanding the past. The human body (including the skeleton) interacts in a dynamic way to social and physical stressors in the environment, providing important insights into past societies and interactions. Palaeopathology is the study of past disease in human remains and a sub-discipline of bioarchaeology (study of human remains from archaeological sites). This intensive lecture, seminar and laboratory-based MSc involves lots of hands-on work with real skeletal remains from a variety of different sites and archaeological periods. The course equips students with the theoretical and practical skills for analysing and interpreting data collected from human remains. The emphasis is on osteoprofiling as well as health, using a multidisciplinary approach to link biological evidence for disease with cultural data (the bioarchaeological approach).

This course is unique in the world and it takes a holistic view of the human skeleton and disease. It prepares students for undertaking significant research projects in this subject, or working in contract archaeology, and many other fields. It is aimed at graduates mainly in archaeology and anthropology with or without past experience of knowledge in this field, and for those who aspire to continue into a PhD programme or work in contract archaeology. Past students have come from a variety of subject backgrounds, and destination data illustrate that students go on to a wide range of employment opportunities.

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Explore a range of topics

The course is delivered through an exciting and challenging mixture of lectures, seminars and hands-on practical classes.

The balance of these types of activities changes throughout the course, as you develop your knowledge and ability as independent learners. You will have the opportunity to engage in research, professional practice, and to develop and demonstrate research skills in subject areas that interest you. In addition to the taught components, a series of informal ‘open lab’ sessions form part of the learning experience. We also offer guest lecturers and seminars. You will be part of a vibrant bioarchaeology community here at Durham!

University student
I’ve not only been able to gain training from researchers that I’ve long admired, but have also had opportunities to work on additional research projects, gain training in other specialisations, and tangibly analyse skeletal remains with conditions I would not otherwise have access to. I’ve been able to see things for the first time outside of poorly produced photographs in books and articles, and beyond that, tutored on the subsequent mechanisms and methods for above-standard analysis.

Kori Filipek
MSc Paleopathology graduate