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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: Archaeology


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to F4KD09 Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology


  • ARCH51630 Osteoprofiling


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • For students to acquire an understanding of what paleopathology is in the context of the rest of archaeological study and to acquire skills in recording and diagnosing pathological human bone. Students will gain extensive practical experience recording a wide variety of pathological conditions in real human skeletal remains.


  • Through lecture and laboratory sessions, students will acquire the skills necessary for recognising abnormal (pathologically induced) changes in the skeleton, to provide differential diagnoses, be aware of pseudopathological lesions, and to understand the limitations of the methods used and interpretation generated. This module will include the history of development of palaeopathology as a discipline, the biocultural versus the case study approach, the importance of palaeodemography in the interpretation of palaeopathology, the value of palaeopathology in human behavioural reconstruction, the major categories of disease (theory and practice), plus current issues in palaeopathology and examples of work in the field. Assessment is aimed at evaluating practical skills acquired during the module as well as theoretical understanding of the discipline and written skills.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of the history and development of the discipline and different theoretical approaches
  • Knowledge of key concepts and terminology in palaeopathology
  • Knowledge of main disease categories and the effects of these on the human skeleton
  • Knowledge of traumatic lesions and the parameters used to differentiate between accidental versus intentional trauma, as well as peri-mortem and post-mortem lesions
  • Knowledge of taphonomic processes affecting bone and how these may mimic pathological lesions
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to recognise and record abnormal pathological conditions using macroscopic and radiographic observation and describe the aetiology of these conditions
  • Ability to provide a differential diagnosis and interpret pathological and traumatic lesions
  • Ability to describe the potentials and limitations of advanced analytical techniques that may be used to observe and interpret skeletal pathology
  • Understanding of standardised methods and terminology used in professional practice
  • Ability to describe results in a clear, coherent and professional manner
  • Ability to demonstrate safe and respectful working practices in the laboratory
Key Skills:
  • Recording, quantitative analysis, critical analysis and interpretation of primary and secondary data
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, results, interpretations and arguments
  • An ability to produce work to prescribed guidelines and deadlines

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

  • Through lecture and laboratory sessions, to allow students to explore practical and theoretical concepts and become familiar with the appearance of a wide range of pathological conditions on human bone. Students have access to the human osteology laboratory outside of formal taught hours to develop independent learning skills to reinforce knowledge. Hands-on experience is supplemented with a range of virtual learning resources, including 3D models and photographs of pathological bones. Learning is assessed using practical assessments to test skills in identifying and recording pathological conditions and with an essay to ensure a critical understanding of key concepts.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Weekly 2 hours 18
Practicals 9 Weekly 2.5 hours 22.5
Preparation & Reading 259.5
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,500 100%
Component: Practical Test Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Practical Test 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

The students have the option of submitting an essay plan prior to submission of the summative essay.

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