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F4K809 Palaeopathology MSc Postgraduate Taught 2015


UCAS code F4K809
Degree MSc
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time) or 2 years (part-time)
Location Durham City
Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1154

Course Content


Palaeopathology is the study of past disease in human remains. This lecture, seminar and laboratory based MSc equips students with the theoretical and practical 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 context today, and prepares students for undertaking significant research projects in this subject, or working in contract archaeology. 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 as into a PhD programme or work in contract archaeology.

Course Structure

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).

Core Modules

  • 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).

Learning and Teaching

The programme 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 among palaeopathologists. Seminars then provide opportunities for smaller groups of students to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge that they have gained through their lectures and through independent study outside the programmes formal contact hours. Finally, practical laboratory classes and workshops allow students to gain direct practical skills, including identification and interpretation of skeletal remains. The latter provide an important element of the programme 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 over the course of the programme, as students develop their knowledge and the 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 students typically attend 4 hours a week of lectures and 2.5 hours of laboratory sessions, in addition to seminars workshops over the term. Outside timetabled contact hours, students are also expected to undertake their own independent study to prepare for their classes and broaden their subject knowledge. Professional speakers are brought in to engage the students with issues within the professional body.

In Term 2 the balance shifts from learning the basic skills required, to applying them within the discipline of palaeopathology and for developing the necessary skills for identifying palaeopathological conditions in human skeletal remains and their limitations. In addition, Themes aims to develop in students a critical approach to the evaluation of multiple forms of biological and cultural evidence for the reconstruction of specific themes. They focus on discussion and debate of different issues. In Term 2, students typically attend an average of 2 lectures a week, plus seminars and laboratory sessions in addition to workshops.

The move towards greater emphasis on independent learning and research continues in Term 3 and beyond, where the use of research skills acquired earlier in the programme are developed through the dissertation research project. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff with whom they will typically have three one-to-one supervisory meetings, students 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.

Throughout the programme, all students also have access to an academic adviser who will provide them with academic support and guidance. Typically a student will meet their 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 with students on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one hour research seminars which postgraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend. Additionally, the students who attend the MSc Palaeopathology course are provided with the opportunity to attend journal paper critique sessions per term, and human bioarchaeology seminars with PhD students.

Admissions Process

Subjects required, level and grade

A minimum of an upper second class (2:1) degree or equivalent; GPA of 3.3 or above.

English Language requirements

IELTS A recent score of 7.0 or above in IELTS with no component under 6.5; or 600 or above in TOEFL PBT; or 102 or above with no element below 25 in TOEFL IBT; or an equivalent qualification.

Requirements and Admissions

The University accepts the following alternative English language tests and scores.

Fees and Funding

Fees shown are for one year. Total fee will depend on the length of your programme. All fees are subject to annual increases. For more information please visit the Tuition Fees page

EU student fees


Home student fees


Islands student fees


International non-EU student fees


Scholarships and funding

Career Opportunities


Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

For further information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.

Open days and visits

Campus tours

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits

Department Information



Our Department is positioned third in archaeology departments in the UK by The Independent. Complete University Guide 2015.

Our taught Masters courses are amongst the best in their fields with the MA in Museum and Artefact Studies, the MA in Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects and the MSc in Palaeopathology all having particular strengths for professional/vocational development as well as preparation for a PhD. The MA in Archaeology and the new MSc in Archaeological Science offer wide-ranging professional training and provide an ideal preparation for doctoral research.

A thriving group of postgraduate research students, both at Masters and PhD levels, contributes to the diversity of interests that underpins the Department's vibrant research environment.


NB: Information contained on the website or in the literature with respect to the fee is correct at the time of publication but the University reserves the right to change the course information or fee at a later date.