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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH48115: Advanced Studies in Forensic Anthropology

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To examine the contribution of biological anthropological research to the study of forensic science
  • To provide students with a detailed understanding of the methods and theory of forensic anthropology
  • To develop a critical awareness of current practice in forensic anthropology in legal and humanitarian contexts


  • This module will examine human osteology and biological variation and its application to forensic anthropology
  • Topics that may be covered include: assessment of age-at-death, sex, ancestry, trauma analysis, crime scene analysis and identification processes
  • An in depth discussion of role of the forensic anthropologist in the criminal justice system
  • An in depth discussion of the ethical issues surrounding research with human remains

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the main methods used to assess identification from a human skeleton
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the main taphonomic processes that a body undergoes after death.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the varied role of the forensic anthropologist and recognition of when skills in human identification could assist the investigations and when other specialists have to be called in.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will have a detailed knowledge of the human skeleton and be able to identify individual bones (both complete and partial)
  • Students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the limitations when profiling human remains
  • Students should be able to critically evaluate the presentation of forensic anthropology to the general public.
Key Skills:
  • Ability to identify individual components of the human skeleton.
  • Ability to critically evaluate subject specific methods and debates.
  • Ability to communicate findings effectively.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Classes will integrate lecture, seminar and practical components.
  • Lecture elements will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and cases studies.
  • Seminars will develop topics introduced in lectures, practicals and required reading to analyse aspects in greater depth and to prepare students for their summative assignment.
  • Practical components will provide students with hands-on experience of the techniques and research.
  • Advanced discussion classes will allow students to develop their skills of critical thinking and evaluation, as well as how to synthesise and interrogate material at a level commensurate with postgraduate attainment.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of seminars and general and particular reading related to the assessment, which will be a written assignment (such as an essay or report).
  • Summative assessment will consist of a 1,500 word essay in which students will apply concepts and issues covered in the course and a 1,000 word forensic anthropology report based on work in the practical classes.
  • The critical reading log is an annotated bibliography in which the evidence and arguments presented in readings selected by the student and relevant to the development of their summative assessment are evaluated and critiqued. This along with the other summative component should show evidence of a higher level of engagement expected at postgraduate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Practicals 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Advanced discussion class 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1500 words 40%
Forensic Anthropology Report 1000 words 40%
Critical reading log 1000 words 20%

Formative Assessment:

500 word essay plan. Seminar on writing a forensic anthropology report. Reading log sample.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University