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Degree type


Course length

1 year full-time


Durham City

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Course details

This MSc, offering a holistic view of the body and society in the study and interpretation of research into human remains, is unique in the academic world and will prepare you for a fascinating career in professional archaeology or in further research into this vitally important area.

You will learn about the role of the human skeleton as one of the most important sources of evidence for understanding the past as a result of its active relationship with the social, mental and physical nature of living in a particular environment and at a particular time in history.

Taking a hands-on, highly practical approach to learning, the course provides the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge through a carefully designed blend of lectures, seminars and laboratory-based work where the focus is on osteoprofiling as well as health and disease.

As you progress through the course, learning methods and activities become more complex as your ability and experience around osteoprofiling and health and disease develop. You will have the opportunity to follow the direction that interests you most, and you will be able to demonstrate how your skills and knowledge have grown in your chosen field through your contact with an engaged and enthusiastic academic team.

You will learn to understand the world in which people live now and lived in the past. You will be a key part of a vibrant and committed bioarchaeology community with world-leading resources and facilities and will be ready to take your knowledge and turn it into a rewarding career anywhere in the world.

Course Structure

Core modules

Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science provides a high level of understanding of research methods, study and presentation skills in archaeological science, covering areas such as research ethics, writing and presentation skills, research designs and research application, computing and statistics.

Osteoprofiling equips you with knowledge of the normal anatomy and physiology of the skeleton so you will learn to recognise abnormal anatomy and become familiar with basic methods of analysis relevant for human and osteology. You will receive extensive practical experience in constructing an osteological profile.

Palaeopathology: Theory and Method provides an understanding of what paleopathology is in the context of the rest of archaeological study and develops the skills required to record and diagnose pathological human bone. You will receive extensive practical experience recording a wide variety of pathological conditions in real human skeletal remains.

Dissertation in which you will carry out research and develop and display your skills and knowledge in a particular subject area. You will familiarise yourself with published literature on a specific topic, develop a research design, collect and evaluate data and then write and present your dissertation.

You will also choose one option module from the following:

  • Current Themes in Human Bioarchaeology
  • Isotopic and Biomolecular Archaeology
  • Research Topics in Archaeology


The MSc in Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology offers an active and exciting combination of modules delivered through a wide-ranging mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes as well as field trips. 

The taught elements provide key information and identify the main areas for discussion and debate, which then take place in seminars. Practical classes take place in our well-equipped laboratories, where you will develop your skills and knowledge in recording and interpreting data from skeletal remains. This element of the course is vital in developing the necessary experience that can be applied in your future professional career.

The course is spread out over three terms, with Term 1 featuring all aspects of skeletal analysis through lectures and practical work in the laboratory. In Term 2 the emphasis is on developing your skills for palaeopathological analysis backed up by the choice of an optional module, while Term 3, sees the design and completion of a dissertation under the guidance of an assigned dissertation supervisor.


Course assessment is rigorous and carried out through essays, exams and the evaluation of a portfolio of practical work and tests. You will also be required to design, research and write a dissertation of up to 15,000 words. 

Academic staff provide written and verbal feedback on an ongoing basis and when you are working alongside research staff, you will be required to analyse and critique research methods and practice – skills that will be essential when you come to the design and completion of your dissertation.

Entry requirements

A minimum of a second-class (2:1) degree or equivalent; GPA of 3.3 or above.

IELTS 7.0 or above with no component below 6.5; TOEFL IBT (Internet Based Test) 102 or above (with no component below 25).

All self-financing overseas students are required to pay a £1000 tuition fee deposit if an offer from the Department of Archaeology is accepted. The tuition fee deposit is paid before the University issues a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) number, which is required in order to apply for a visa. A £500 deposit is also payable by Home applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £11,900 per year
EU students £26,500 per year
Island students £11,900 per year
International students £26,500 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

Department information


The Department of Archaeology is home to one of the largest postgraduate communities in Europe who benefit from world class academic teaching and leading-edge facilities to be able to pursue their passion for studying the past, interpreting the present and understanding the future.

The wide-ranging courses are research-led and delivered by staff who are recognised experts in specialisms that span world, European and British archaeology from the last ice age to the post-medieval period.

Our taught courses provide the ideal grounding for further academic research at a higher level but also offer essential preparation for entering a professional career.

They include MA Museum and Artefact Studies, MA International Cultural Heritage Management, and MA Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects, all of which have strong vocational themes. The MSc Bioarchaeology and MA Archaeology offer ideal preparation for research careers and specialisation and our unique MSc Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology and MSc Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology are ideal for postgraduates nurturing both academic and professional aspirations.

We welcome applications from researchers seeking MRes and PhD qualifications tailored to specific interests, and we offer strong developmental support.

With our expertise in a wide range of archaeological disciplines and significant research activity across the globe, our aim is to create a top-class learning environment that is vibrant and supportive and enables you to make a difference in your chosen field.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 10th in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Archaeology 2023
  • 1st in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see our Archaeology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 97% of our research outputs graded world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021)
  •  2nd in the UK top ten for the overall quality of research (REF 2021)


The Department of Archaeology has a reputation for excellence and connections across the world.

We are home to state-of-the-art laboratories, specialist technology and some of the best library resources in the UK. We have project rooms with interactive technology, teaching laboratories, a computer suite, a photographic studio and scientific research laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotopes, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, palaeopathology and bone chemistry, many of which are used as learning resources for out postgraduate community.

Taught courses and researchers alike benefit from our status as co-owners of a UNESCO World Heritage site and the extensive range of library, museum and artefact collection resources on offer at Durham.

The Department of Archaeology can be found in the Dawson Building, which is ideally situated at the heart of the Durham city campus, next to the Bill Bryson Library and the Palatine Centre.

More information on our facilities and equipment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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