The University of Southampton

ARCH2027 Bones, bodies and burials: osteology and comparative anatomy

Module Overview

This module examines the variation within the mammalian skeleton from an evolutionary and functional perspective. Additionally, it gives an overview of the main methodological and theoretical issues in the retrieval, treatment and interpretation of bone finds from archaeological sites and the relationship between humans and other animals. The module looks at patterns in bodily treatment and disposal, and the use and management of animal populations. It integrates practical study of human and animal bones with discussions of disease, diet, burial context, age and sex. It uses both practical sessions and lectures to develop your knowledge of mammal skeletons, and then project work to extend analyses into interpreting archaeological assemblages of bodies and bones.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce students to the mammalian skeleton and its interpretation in archaeological studies • Develop student’s skills in the identification and observation of the various bones in human and animal skeletons • Introduce students to the variability that relates to sex, age, and pathology. • Familiarise students with the use of osteological data to produce technical faunal bone reports


The module aims to give the student an understanding of the mammalian skeleton and its interpretation in archaeological studies. The first half of the module will deal with the identification and observation of the various bones in human and animal skeletons; the second half will deal with topics such as sex, age, and palaeopathology.

Special Features

Practical classes will give students the opportunity to learn essential identification of human and animal bones, ageing and sexing of bone material, and recognition of palaeopathological modifications. These gained skills will be assessed through the Practical Test and the Exam. The Bone Report will assess the understanding of students The exam will also enable students to demonstrate the attainment of the essential knowledge of the methods used in osteoarchaeology as well as of the wider theoretical context of osteological studies.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Teaching methods include lectures and practicals • Osteology is a “hands-on” subject; where students play and active role in learning. An important aspect of the module will be studying specimens during practicals and in the bone lab outside of the module meetings. Learning activities include • Lab study • Report writing • Background reading

Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

O’Connor, T.P. (2000). The Archaeology of Animals Bones. 

Schwartz, J. (1995). Skeleton Keys. 

Reitz, E.J. and Wing, E.S (2008). Zooarchaeology. 

Osteological Reference Collection. Archaeology academic unit

online resource of 3D-digitised skeletons made available by the Max Planck Institute (Leipzig).

Schmid, E (1972). Atlas of Animal Bones. 

Davis, S.J.M. (1987). The Archaeology of Animals. 

White, T.D. & Folkens, P.A. (2000). Human Osteology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Bone tests 10%
Online test  (105 minutes) 50%
Report  (2000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Online test  (105 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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