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MSc Bioarchaeology

Course Description

Bioarchaeology is an exciting and fast-advancing field which combines archaeology with branches of the natural sciences to study key topics such as past health and well-being, diet, ecology, subsistence strategies and environmental impacts.

The MSc in Bioarchaeology aims to develop a broad understanding of these issues through the study of human remains. Students on this programme will also have the opportunity to study animal remains, as well as floral and faunal evidence.

The programme develops advanced practical skills in skeletal analysis, making use of the department’s well-provisioned specialist laboratories and reference collections. A particular strength of our provision is that we are able to address the bioarchaeology of both the New and Old Worlds. Those completing the Course acquire the skills necessary to continue into academic research or employment, as an osteologist in field units, museums or Cultural Resources Managament companies.

The programme allows you to specialise in one of two named pathways: Human Osteoarchaeology (physical anthropology and funerary archaeology) or Zooarchaeology (animal bones and other faunal remains).

Learning and teaching

Most of the formal classes that you attend will be based on a mixture of lectures, seminars, and workshops. The precise mix will vary between modules. These aim to outline the principal issues of the module, to explore some detailed issues, and, where relevant, to give you experience of working with a particular technique or data set.
All members of staff are actively engaged in research, both in Britain and abroad, and regularly attend conferences, symposia and workshops. It is through this active engagement in the discipline that we are able to supply top quality teaching by experts in their field and as a result we have a 24/24 grading for our teaching from the Quality Assurance Agency.
In addition to our established palaeobotany, experimental archaeology, and microscopy laboratories, we have a new bioarchaeology lab dedicated to the study of anatomical variation, palaeopathological conditions, and the funerary context of human and animal remains. The laboratory, accompanied by a designated store for the Department's collection of human remains, provides facilities for use by researchers and students for examining skeletal remains recovered from archaeological sites. Equipment includes anatomical casts and demographic reference standards used to determine the sex, age-at-death, stature and body proportions from human remains.

Research areas

Bioarchaeological research at Exeter combines the study of archaeology with branches of the natural and physical sciences to address questions of health and well-being, diet, ecology, subsistence strategies and natural and human-induced environmental impacts in the past.

Our approach is holistic and inter-disciplinary, drawing its inspiration from both definitions of ‘bioarchaeology’: as a study applied to human remains (human osteoarchaeology) and, as originally defined by Grahame Clark, as related to the integration of environmental archaeology, floral and faunal evidence – archaeobotany and zooarchaeology – in archaeological research.
Active field research programmes in North and South America and Eurasia link with extensive laboratory research to address questions of social structure and social organisation, the process of animal and plant domestication, the development of social inequality and power relations, violence and warfare, the rise of élites and craft specialists, and division of labour.

Programme Structure

This programme includes 135 credits of compulsory modules and 45 credits of optional modules.


The two available pathways are; Human Osteology (http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/archaeology/bioarch/humanosteology/) and Zooarchaeology

Compulsory modules

The compulsory modules for each of the pathways can include the following; Research Methods and Archaeological Theory; Musculo-skeletal Anatomy; Advanced Zooarchaeology; Advanced Human Osteology; Zooarchaeology (Masters level); Bioarchaeology Dissertation and Bioarchaeology Dissertation Zooarchaeology.

Optional modules

The following is a list of the possible optional modules; Advanced Project; Experimental Archaeology in Practice; Field Study; Landscape Archaeology: Understanding the historic environment; Material Culture; Advanced Human Osteology; ;Zooarchaeology (Masters level); Palaeobotany (Masters level); Funerary Osteoarchaeology (Masters level); Musculo-skeletal Anatomy and Researching the Historic Environment Online.

The modules listed here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand

Visit the MSc Bioarchaeology page on the University of Exeter website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Jamie Toombs

2240.jpg Human Osteology is an immensely stimulating and dynamic field. There are so many fascinating paths to walk and questions to ask. I enjoy piecing facts and people together from the broad how and why we move and grow, to unveiling the life-course of an individual, sharing each bump and scrape they took along the way. My special passion is for the molecular make-up of homo sapiens and hostile microorganisms and how this can be used to understand movement through space and time.

I have had the opportunity to visit other institutions such as the Universities of Winchester and Surrey as part of research oriented and experience garnering projects. At Winchester, I was allowed access to skeletal remains with lesions associated with leprosy and was then privileged to spend a week at Surrey receiving instruction in the analysis of ancient pathogen DNA. These have been rare and valuable experiences for which I am extremely grateful.


Funding for Postgraduate Study - 20+ Awards

We offer a range of postgraduate scholarships and studentships for talented students. For 2016 entry, the total value of scholarships for taught postgraduate programmes exceeds £500,000. This is in addition to over 100 PhD studentships we make available each year.Students who reside in England and are interested in our Masters programmes can now take advantage of the UK government's postgraduate loan scheme which offers loans of up to £10,000.

Value of Scholarship(s)



Varies, but most awards are competitive and merit-based.

Application Procedure

Please see the details of each scheme as listed in our search: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/search

Further Information


Entry Requirements

An appropriate degree in Archaeology or a related subject (Archaeology, Geography, Anthropology, Biology or Environmental Science), normally at 2:1 level or above. Please see our website for full details

Course Fees

See our web site for more information (click on "Finance") View Website

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