MSc Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology
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.
F4KD09 Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology MSc Postgraduate Taught 2019
Palaeopathology is the study of past disease in human remains; it is a sub-discipline of bioarchaeology (the study of human remains from archaeological sites). This lecture, seminar and laboratory-based MSc equips you with the theoretical and practical skills and knowledge 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 context 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 or knowledge in this field, and for those who aspire to continue on to 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 employment 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).
To view our short film on Archaeology at Durham click here.
Learning and Teaching
Course Learning and Teaching
The course is delivered through an exciting and challenging mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes. 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 recording and interpretation of data from skeletal remains. We have a dedicated human osteology laboratory at Durham and curate large collections of human skeletal remains at Durham and this includes many pathological examples. These are an important component of the course, facilitating independent and group work, as well as hands-on experience under laboratory conditions, essential for a potential future working environment. You will have your own key to the human bone laboratory for independent study outside of formal teaching hours.
The balance of these types of activities changes throughout the course, as you develop your knowledge and ability as independent learners. You will have the opportunity to engage in research, professional practice, and to develop and demonstrate research skills subject areas that interest you. In addition to the taught components, a series of informal ‘open lab’ sessions form part of the learning experience.
Term 1: You will take Identification and Analysis of the Normal Human Skeleton, taught through lectures and practical laboratory sessions. In this module you will learn all aspects of skeletal analysis, including bone fragment identification, techniques of sex determination, estimating age-at-death and metrical and non-metrical assessment. This term you will also take Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science, which includes lectures, workshops and practical sessions on both generic and specific archaeological science research skills. External speakers specialising in specific subject areas from “industry” and academia are invited to deliver lectures on issues related to both research and the broader profession.
Term 2: The focus this term is on developing skills for palaeopathological analysis and interpretation. In Palaeopathology: Theory and Method you will learn how to record and diagnose different types of diseases in human skeletal remains, delivered via lectures and hands-on practical experiences using our extensive pathological collections. In Themes in Palaeopathology you will develop your critical approach to the evaluation of multiple forms of evidence, to help contextualise and interpret the human skeletal evidence for the reconstruction of specific themes. This module is taught through lectures and a series of seminars, during which you have the opportunity to engage in current debates.
Term 3: The research skills acquired earlier in the course will be developed further through the dissertation research project. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff you will undertake a detailed study of a particular area of interest, resulting in a significant piece of independent research. The dissertation is regarded as preparation for further professional or academic work
Throughout the course, you will have access to an “academic adviser”, who will provide you with academic support and guidance. All members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet on a ‘drop-in’ basis, but the Department’s teaching staff are renowned for being friendly, approachable and helpful should you have queries at any time. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one-hour research seminars which you are strongly encouraged to attend. Our MSc students also enjoy auditing the History of Medicine module delivered by the Department of Philosophy.
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.