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

Postgraduate Course: Social Bioarchaeology: Living Conditions, Lifestyles and the Impact of Disease in the Past (PGHC11494)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat was life like in the past? How can bioarchaeology help us understand the impact of social change and catastrophic events such as famines and war? What factors have influenced health and longevity in past societies? These are some questions that will be discussed in this course, which focuses on current research topics in social bioarchaeology.
Course description This course will introduce students to current research topics in social bioarchaeology that focus on health and disease in the past and the application of social theory in bioarchaeology. Different themes will be explored, such as the current understanding of the impact of the introduction of agriculture and more sedentary lifestyles, as well as work environment and general living condition to overall health in past societies. Similarly, the detrimental impact of social injustice, discrimination and racism on human well-being will be discussed.

Using archaeological and bioarchaeological sources, interpreted in an interdisciplinary setting, students will explore how people have responded or adjusted to these factors. They will learn how studies of burials and archaeological skeletons can give us an insight into how social relations were constructed and formed in the past. Other than discussing these topics in an archaeological/historical settings, students will be given the opportunity to reflect on factors that determines health in contemporary society today.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Social Bioarchaeology: Living Conditions, Lifestyles and the Impact of Disease in the Past (ARCA10092) OR Ancient Bodies: Archaeological Human Remains in their Social and Cultural Context (ARCA10099)
Other requirements None
Additional Costs Potentially public transport cost within the City of Edinburgh.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of how social conditions have affected health in the past and what the long-term societal consequences of deprived human health may be;
  2. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of how disease is studied from archaeological human remains;
  3. Source research and study material using an interdisciplinary approach;
  4. Critically evaluate and assess research and source materials, and how to apply social theory to archaeological/bioarchaeological research;
  5. Perform outreach and science communication
Reading List
Agarwal, S. C. & Glencross, B. A. (Eds.) (2011), Social Bioarchaeology. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Cohen, M. N., & Armelagos, G. J. (Eds.) (2013). Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture (2nd ed.). Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Geber, J. (2015). Victims of Ireland's Great Famine: The Bioarchaeology of Mass Burials at Kilkenny Union Workhouse. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Gowland, R & Kn├╝sel, C. (Eds.) (2006). Social archaeology of funerary remains. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Harding, V. (1998). Burial on the margin: Distance and discrimination in early modern London. In M. Cox (Ed.), Grave concerns: Death and burial in England 1700 to 1850 (pp. 54-64). York: Council for British Archaeology.

Hutchinson, D. L. (2016). Disease and discrimination: Poverty and pestilence in Colonial Atlantic America. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Klaus, H. D., Harvey, A. R. & Cohen, M. N. (Eds.) (2017). Bones of Complexity: Bioarchaeological Case Studies of Social Organization and Skeletal Biology. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Murphy, M. S. & Klaus, H. D. (Eds.) (2017). Colonized Bodies, World Transformed: Toward a Global Bioarchaeology of Contact and Colonialism. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Rathbun, T. A., & Steckel, R. H. (2002). The health of slaves and free blacks in the east. In R. H. Steckel & J. C. Rose (Eds.), The backbone of history: Health and nutrition in the Western Hemisphere (pp. 208-225). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Razzell, P., & Spence, C. (2006). The Hazards of Wealth: Adult Mortality in Pre-Twentieth-Century England. Social History of Medicine, 19(3), 381-405.

Steckel, R. H., & Rose, J. C. (2002). Patterns of health in the Western Hemisphere. In R. H. Steckel & J. C. Rose (Eds.), The backbone of history: Health and nutrition in the Western Hemisphere (pp. 563-579). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tilley, L. (2015). Theory and Practice in the Bioarchaeology of Care. New York, NY: Springer.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Be able to evaluate scientific research of human remains in a sociocultural context.

Understand how the application of social theory contributes to interpretation of archaeological human skeletal remains

Understand how social conditions affects human health and well-being, and how these can be studied from archaeological human remains

Academic research skills in how to source relevant literature to specific research questions.

Critically evaluate and contextualise academic research.

Dissemination of research to a broad readership
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jonny Geber
Tel: (0131 6)50 3534
Course secretaryMiss Lorna Berridge
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