The University of Southampton

ARCH6106 Osteoarchaeology and Palaeopathology in Context

Module Overview

The module comprises 2 sections; the first comprises seminars based upon current theoretical and methodological developments within osteoarchaeology, whereas the second portion comprises development of detailed skeletal and palaeopathological methods, knowledge and understanding. The topics considered in the seminar portion of the module will vary depending upon the research interests and foci of the academic staff, and will always be fully linked to major current research topics.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims to introduce a range of issues related to working with skeletal human remains.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the varying theoretical approaches to the analysis of skeletal remains
  • the ethical issues surrounding working with human remains
  • human-animal interactions
  • skeletal remains as a resource for studying past variability in diet and subsistence, health and disease, social structure and organisation, speciation and extinction, ideology and religious belief, and population history and migration
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate results of skeletal analyses and studies
  • critique osteoarchaeological data and interpretations derived from it
  • demonstrate command of the literature and critical thinking
  • present information clearly and concisely
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write detailed reports (suitable for publication)
  • undertake oral presentations
  • lead seminars and discussion groups
  • demonstrate awareness of ethical issues
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake palaeopathological analyses
  • write skeletal reports to the standard required by English Heritage and archaeological contractors
  • integrate theoretical issues and archaeological questions with empirical data
  • pose and tackle archaeological questions using skeletal data


Topic / activity Seminar – identity and bioarchaeology Seminar – ethical issues surrounding working with skeletal material Seminar – hunting and domestication Seminar – diet and consumption Seminar – migration and consumption Seminar – religion and ritual, archaeothanatology Lecture: Introduction to bone assessment and reporting, and the role of an osteologist in a commercial environment Practical: Assess human skeletal material and start draft assessment Lecture: The identification and scoring of joint disease Workshop: Joint disease Practical: Finish assessment and begin recording of skeletal material. Lecture: The use of skeletal ageing techniques in bone reporting Workshop: Ageing using the cranial sutures by Perizonius’ method Practical: Continue recording skeletal material Workshop: Metric and non-metric variation Workshop: Skeletal anomalies Practical: Continue recording skeletal material Workshop: Diagnosis and recording of unusual skeletal pathology (each student to bring along two or three examples of bones from their assemblage showing unusual pathology). Practical: Continue recording / start to write up report Lectures: A. Medical Imaging in Osteoarchaeology B. What makes a good bone report? Practical surgery: Problems and queries. Free session in which students can bring along further problem specimens or raise any queries concerned with report writing. Practical: Writing up report

Special Features

The module will include detailed teaching of palaeopathological analysis and the writing of English Heritage style skeletal reports. This section will be taught by a guest lecturer and increases student employability within contract archaeology.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be taught through a mixture of lectures, practical classes and student-led seminars.

Independent Study252
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Buikstra, J. E. and Beck, L.A. (eds.) (2006). Bioarchaeology. 

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

Russell, N. (2011). Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory. 

Wheeler, A. and Jones, A.K.G. (1989). Fishes. 

White, T.D.; Black, M.T. and Folkens, P.A. (2012). Human Osteology. 

Serjeantson, D. (2009). Birds. 

Wilson, B.; Grigson, C. and Payne, S. (eds.) (1982). Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites. 

Agarwal, S.C. and Glencross, B.A. (eds.) (2011). Social Bioarchaeology. 

Katzenberg, M.A. and Saunders, S.R. (eds) (2008). Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton. 

Binford, L.R. (1981). Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths. 

Grauer, A. (ed) (1995). Bodies of Evidence. Reconstructing History through Skeletal Analysis. 

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

Mays, S. (2010). The Archaeology of Human Bones. 

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

Lyman, R.L (2008). Quantitative Palaeozoology. 

Cox, M. and Mays, S. (eds) (2000). Human Osteology for Archaeology and Forensic Science. 

Rowley-Conwy, P. (ed.) (2000). Animal Bones, Human Societies. 

Iscan, M.Y. and Kennedy, K.A.R. (eds.) (1989). Reconstruction of Life from the Skeleton. 

Lyman, R.L. (1994). Vertebrate Taphonomy. 

Larsen, C.S. (1997). Bioarchaeology. 

Woolgar, C.M.; Serjeantson, D. and Waldron, T. (2006). Food in Medieval England. 

Baker, J. and Brothwell, D. (1980). Animal Diseases in Archaeology. 

O’Connor, T.P (2003). The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages. 

Serjeantson, D. and Waldron, T. (1989). Diet and Craft in Towns. 

Clutton-Brock, C. (1999). A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals. 

Miracle, P. and Milner, N. (eds.) (2002). Consuming Passions and Patterns of Consumption. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Report  (3000 words) 50%
Research essay  (2000 words) 40%
Skeletal assemblage  (1000 words) 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework %

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Prerequisites: ARCH6110 or ARCH6115 or ARCH6126 or ARCH6127

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