Palaeopathology is the study of past disease in human remains; it is a sub-discipline of bioarchaeology (study of human remains from archaeological sites). This lecture, seminar and laboratory based MSc equips students with the theoretical and practical skills knowledge of how to study and interpret data collected from human remains. The emphasis is on health and well-being using a multidisciplinary approach, linking biological evidence for disease with cultural data (the bioarchaeological approach). This course is unique in the world and it takes a holistic view of disease, as seen in a clinical contexts today, and prepares students for undertaking significant research projects in this subject, or working in contract archaeology, and many other fields. It is aimed at graduates mainly in archaeology and anthropology with or without past experience of knowledge in this field, and for those who aspire to continue into a PhD programme or work in contract archaeology. However, past students have come from a variety of subject backgrounds, and destination data illustrate a wide range of employments take these students.
F4K809 Palaeopathology MSc Postgraduate Taught 2019
Palaeopathology is the study of past disease in human remains; it is a sub-discipline of bioarchaeology (study of human remains from archaeological sites). This lecture, seminar and laboratory based MSc equips you with the theoretical and practical skills knowledge of how to study and interpret data collected from human remains. The emphasis is on health and well-being using a multidisciplinary approach, linking biological evidence for disease with cultural data (the bioarchaeological approach). This course is unique in the world and it takes a holistic view of disease, as seen in a clinical contexts today, and will prepare you for undertaking significant research projects in this subject, or working in contract/commercial archaeology, and many other fields. It is aimed at graduates mainly in archaeology and anthropology with or without past experience of knowledge in this field, and for those who aspire to continue into a PhD or work in contract archaeology. However, past students have come from a variety of subject backgrounds, and destination data illustrate a wide range of employments take these students.
Two taught modules in the Epiphany term (Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science and Identification and Analysis of the Normal Human Skeleton), and two taught modules in Michaelmas term (Palaeopathology: Theory and Method; Themes in Palaeopathology), with the double module dissertation over Easter term and the summer (submitted early September).
- Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science
- Identification and Analysis of the Normal Human Skeleton
- Palaeopathology: Theory and Method
- Themes in Palaeopathology
- Dissertation (double module).
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Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.
Learning and Teaching
Course Learning and Teaching
The course is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate in bioarchaeology. Seminars then provide opportunities for smaller groups of you to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge that you have gained through your lectures and through independent study outside the programme’s formal contact hours. Finally, practical laboratory classes allow you to gain direct practical skills in the recording and interpretation of data from skeletal remains. The latter provide an important element of the course in allowing independent and group work, as well as hands-on experience under laboratory conditions, essential for a potential future working environment.
The balance of these types of activities changes throughout the course, as you develop your knowledge and ability as independent learners, giving them the opportunity to engage in research, professional practice, and developing and demonstrating research skills in a particular area of the subject.
In Term 1 you will typically attend 4 hours a week of lectures and 2.5 hours of laboratory sessions, in addition to seminars over the term. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and broaden your subject knowledge. External speakers specialising in specific subject areas from “industry” and academia are brought in to engage the students on issues in research, but also in the profession.
In Term 2 the balance shifts from learning the basic skills required for recording and interpreting skeletal data (age at death, sex, normal variation), to further developing skills for palaeopathological data recording and their interpretation and understanding the limitations. In addition, the Themes module aims to develop your critical approach to the evaluation of multiple forms of evidence, beyond that for human remains, for the reconstruction of specific themes. It focuses on discussion and debate of different related issues. In Term 2 you will typically attend 4 hours a week of lectures and 2.5 hours of laboratory sessions, in addition to seminars over the term. Again, external speakers specialising in specific subject areas from “industry” and academia are brought in to engage on issues in research, but also in the profession.
The move towards greater emphasis on independent learning and research continues in Term 3 and beyond, where the research skills acquired earlier in the course are developed through the dissertation research project. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff with whom you will typically have three one-to-one supervisory meetings, you will undertake a detailed study of a particular area, resulting in a significant piece of independent research. The dissertation is regarded as a preparation for further professional or academic work. In Term 3 students are given the opportunity to attend a Careers Session in the Department where past graduates of the course talk about their career trajectories since graduating.
Throughout the course, you will have access to an “academic adviser”, or in the case of this MSc the two Directors (Professor Charlotte Roberts and Dr Rebecca Gowland), who provide you with academic support and guidance. Typically you will meet your adviser two to three times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one hour research seminars which you are strongly encouraged to attend. Additionally, those who attend the MSc Palaeopathology course are provided with the opportunity to attend journal paper critique sessions each term, and human bioarchaeology seminars given by PhD students.
Subject requirements, level and grade
A minimum of an upper second-class (2:1) degree or equivalent; GPA of 3.3 or above.
Two satisfactory references are required
There is no specific deadline for applications although applications for any given academic year must be received before the start of that academic year (i.e. applications for the 2019/20 academic year must be received before October 2019).
Tuition fee deposit
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.
£500 deposit is also payable by Home/EU applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.
English Language requirements
Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.
How to apply
Fees and Funding
Fees and Funding
Full Time Fees
|EU Student||£8,500.00 per year|
|Home Student||£8,500.00 per year|
|Island Student||£8,500.00 per year|
|International non-EU Student||£19,450.00 per year|
Part Time Fees
|EU Student||£4,700.00 per year|
|Home Student||£4,700.00 per year|
|International non-EU Student||£10,700.00 per year|
Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.
Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.
Scholarships and funding
I am impressed with the rigor and breadth of the MSc course in Paleopathology at Durham University. It should be of interest to any serious student of ancient health and disease.Professor Jane Buikstra, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, USA
"The professors and faculty are clearly at the forefront of the field and sincerely care about our progress in and out of the classroom. The type of personal attention and resources available has been so valuable to me, and has provided me with the knowledge, experience and confidence to pursue my passion in bioarchaeology."
Katie Hunt - MSc Palaeopathology, 2012-13.
"Entering the course as an historian with archaeological field experience, I was unsure what to expect of the MSc in Palaeopathology. I am glad to say it fulfilled and indeed exceeded my expectations. The course is fast-paced and intensive, but this should not daunt the student coming into bioarchaeology from a different field. I can proudly say that the interdisciplinary abilities I gained through this course have left me a more well-rounded academic and person."
Aja Sutton - MSc Palaeopathology, 2012-13.
"I’ve not only been able to gain training from researchers that I’ve long admired, but have also had opportunities to work on additional research projects, gain training in other specialisations, and tangibly analyse skeletal remains with conditions I would not otherwise have access to. I’ve been able to see things for the first time outside of poorly produced photographs in books and articles, and beyond that, tutored on the subsequent mechanisms and methods for above-standard analysis."
Kori Lea Filipek - MSc Palaeopathology, 2012-13.