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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Analytical Methods in Human Osteoarchaeology (PGHC11464)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course is an introduction to the principles and techniques of the analysis and interpretation of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts. Topics include taphonomic process, burial practices, sex assessment, age-at-death, stature, metric and non-metric variation, cremated human remains, aDNA and stable isotope analysis. Students will be also be introduced to human skeletal anatomy and differences between human and animal bone, as well as to more general analytical skills such as scientific photography and Health & Safety awareness.
Course description The course consists of weekly lectures and lab practicals covering different topics relating to the analysis and interpretation of human skeletal data.

Proposed course syllabus

1) Introduction to course aims, topics and assessments Ethical issues and human remains Introduction to human skeletal anatomy
2) Taphonomy
3) Sex assessment
4) Age-at-death: Adults
5) Age-at-Death: Non-adults
6) Metric analysis and non-metric variation
7) Cremated human remains
8) Biomolecular methods I: aDNA and C & N stable isotopes
9) Biomolecular methods II: Mobility - S & O stable isotopes.
10) Introduction to photography
11) Burial practices

Lab Practicals
1) Identification I
2) Identification II
3) Comparative anatomy (human and animal remains)
4) Sex assessment
5) Age-at-death: Adults
6) Age-at-death: Non-adults
7) Metric analysis and non-metric variation
8) Cremated human remains
9) Full skeletal analysis

There will also be a field trip to a local crematorium to complement the lecture and practical on cremated human remains.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Analytical Methods in Human Osteology (PGHC11230) OR Practical Osteology (PGHC11232)
Other requirements This course is available to students on the Human Osteoarchaeology (MSc) only.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  10
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 18, External Visit Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 152 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 50 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. 40-question short answer class test (50%)
2. Skeletal Report (50%)
Based on the analysis of an articulated skeleton, students will write an illustrated skeletal report, including assessment of preservation, a skeletal inventory, assessment of sex, age-at-death, stature, details of measurements taken and non-metric traits. There is no word limit for the report.
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their coursework, and are encouraged to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate through completion of the class test detailed and critical knowledge and understanding of analytical methods in human osteoarchaeology;
  2. demonstrate in the skeletal report the ability to analyse and interpret human skeletal data in its context;
  3. demonstrate in the skeletal report the ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship concerning human skeletal analysis;
  4. demonstrate through completion of the skeletal report intellectual integrity and maturity and a considerable degree of autonomy.
Reading List
Bass, W.M. 2005. Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. Fifth Edition. Special Publication No.2 of the Missouri Archaeological Society. Columbia, Missouri.

Brickley, M. & McKinley, J. 2004. Guidelines to the Standards for Recording Human Remains. BABAO & IFA. (Available electronically on:

Brothwell, D.R. 1981. Digging up Bones. Third edition. British Museum (Natural History). Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Buikstra, J.E. & Ubelaker. D.H. 1994. Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains. Arkansas Archaeological Survey Research Series No. 44. Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Cox, M. & Mays, S. (eds.) 2000, Human Osteology in Archaeology and Forensic Science. Greenwich Medical Media Ltd. London.

Mays, S. 2010. The Archaeology of Human Bones. Second Edition. Routledge. London.

Roberts, C.A. 2009. Human Remains in Archaeology: A Handbook (CBA Practical Handbook). Council for British Archaeology.

White, Tim D. & Folkens, P.A. 2005. The Human Bone Manual. Academic Press.

Scheuer, L & Black, S. 2000. Developmental Juvenile Osteology. Elsevier Academic Press. Oxford
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The strong analytical and practical aspect of the course makes it relevant for developing a more generic, employability skill-set, which includes independent working, effective communication of complex information, critical thinking and problem solving.

- Competence in the methods and skills involved in academic research
- Developing the skills to work independently and to effectively communicate complex information
- Developing the ability to identify, define and analyse archaeological problems
- Gaining experience and enhanced ability to make a critical review of discussions, articles
- Being able to critique texts by scholars in light of the time and social circumstances of their writing
- Gaining the skills to extract key points from book chapters/articles
- Developing a knowledge of the subject area that takes in changes in its development over the past 150 years, and be aware of current themes
- Gaining a good understanding and appreciation of the importance of the ancient and environment within research
- Improving ability to conduct independent research using largely electronic sources, and investigate additional online sources
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Kathleen McSweeney
Tel: (0131 6)50 2373
Course secretaryMr Jonathan Donnelly
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782
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