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The MSc Professional Human Osteoarchaeology course provides advanced instruction on the osteological methods, theories and techniques needed to identify and analyse human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts.  

Why choose this course?

It highlights training for professional practice in the commercial sector, providing details on report writing, tendering, health and safety, ethics and the law.

Archaeology at the University of Reading is a thriving and research-orientated department, with 97% of the Archaeology department’s research overall judged to be world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised in the latest REF (Research Excellence Framework 2014).

You will have the opportunity to learn directly from leading academics in modules that immediately relate to their areas of expertise. Our programme’s teaching staff have established international reputations for research in human osteology and chemical analysis specialising in the study of the life course (infants and children, puberty, old age) and diet.

Modules are designed to provide you with the key skills required for a professional career, following the ‘Osteology Specialist Competence Matrix’ published jointly by the British Association of Biological Anthropologists and Osteoarchaeologists (BABAO) and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA). In addition, academic research and writing skills will enable you to engage with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and Historic England’s Management of Projects in the Historic Environment (MoRPHE).

The Department curates over 600 human skeletons providing an excellent resource for teaching human anatomy, analytical methods, adult and juvenile osteology, and palaeopathology in fully-equipped dedicated laboratories. (see: http://www.reading.ac.uk/research/themes/theme-heritage-creativity/rd-archaeology/archaeology-facilities.aspx)

This programme has been developed in response to industry need, and in consultation with professional practitioners. You will have the opportunity to engage with professionals through talks and site visits, allowing you to develop vital contacts for your career.

This highly flexible degree is offered both part-time and full-time, and can be used to develop or advance vocational training, or provide a solid foundation for future research. Modules may also be studied on an individual basis as part of your continual professional development (CPD).

What will you study?

  • Professional practice
  • Analysing human skeletal remains
  • Musculo-skeletal anatomy
  • Palaeopathology: adults and children
  • Science and the dead

Please see our module outline for further information.

What career can you have?

The demand for trained and skilled archaeologists is set to grow exponentially over the next decade, due to a high number of large scale infrastructure and investment projects planned on a national scale, both in the UK and abroad.

This flexible programme provides the foundation for work within commercial archaeology companies, as curatorial and education staff in the museum sector, or within the University environment. It also prepares you for a PhD in bioarchaeology and related subjects.

As part of your experience, you may be invited to participate in osteology placements, or have the opportunity to produce professional human bone reports on small assemblages, excavated by staff in the department. You may also benefit from opportunities to work abroad on staff projects yielding human remains (e.g. Iran, Spain), and on samples from current research projects (e.g. Grave Goods, Crusades) that require post-excavation analysis, including human bone processing.


Visit the Professional Human Osteoarchaeology MSc page on the University of Reading website for more details!

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