The University of Southampton

ARCH6115 Human Skeletal Studies

Module Overview

The first portion of the module comprises the learning of the basics of human osteology and palaeopathology. The second portion is more theoretically driven and integrates bioarchaeology with skeletal analysis, including topics such as age, gender, ethnicity and activity patterning.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims to introduce you to essential aspects of the Osteoarchaeology of humans.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

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

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • observe and visually identify human bones
  • evaluate and critique the methods and results of bioarchaeological analyses and studies
  • present information clearly and concisely
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • select appropriate means for recording and analysing data
  • evaluate and critique arguments and material
  • write clear and concise reports
  • undertake oral presentations
  • lead discussion groups
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and sort fragments of human bone
  • undertake and report basic osteological analysis of human skeletons
  • integrate theoretical issues and archaeological questions with empirical data derived from human remains
  • pose and tackle archaeological questions using human skeletal data


Typically, the syllabus will cover: Lecture / Practical The nature of bone & outline of the human skeleton / Human v. non-human, types of bone Skulls & axial skeleton / Skulls & axial skeleton Limbs, long bones, hands and feet / Upper and lower limbs Teeth, dentitions and dental health / Teeth Estimating age and sex / Sexing an adult skeleton Stature and body size / Ageing adult and juvenile skeletons Trauma, battlefields and bodies / Estimating adult stature Palaeopathology, disease and infection / Palaeopathologies Metrics, non-metrics, biodistance and ethnicity / Metric and non-metric analyses Taphonomy, burial ritual and funerary archaeology / Archaeologie de terrain (archaeothanatology) Migration, mobility & chemical analyses (aDNA, isotopes) / Role play of the ethics of working with human remains Bioarchaeology and identity / Peer review of skeletal report, & completion / correction of report

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module involves skeletal data collection and some manipulation of that data. It includes the writing of a concise skeletal report describing a series of human skeletons. The module will be taught primarily through a variety of lectures and practicals, although there will also be informal seminar-style discussions and some role play. Independent study will include repeated and detailed skeletal analysis.

Independent Study252
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

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

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

Schwartz, J. (1995). Skeleton Keys. 

Ortner, D. and Putschar, W. (1985). Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains. 

Brothwell, D. (1987). Digging Up Bones. 

Mays, S. (1993). The Archaeology of Human Bones. 

Bass, W. (1987). Human Osteology. 

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

Buikstra, J and Ubelaker, D. (1994). Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains. 

Brickley, M. and McKinley, J.I. (2004). Guidelines to the Standards for Recording Human Remains. IFA Paper. ,7 , pp. 0.

Larsen, C.S. (1997). Bioarchaeology. 

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

Roberts, C. (2009). Human Remains in Archaeology: A Handbook. 

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

Roberts, C. and Manchester, K. (2010). The Archaeology of Disease. 

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

Hillson, S. (1997). Dental Anthropology. 

McKinley, J. and Roberts, C (2010). Excavation and post-excavation treatment of cremated and inhumed human remains. Institute of Field Archaeologists Technical Paper. ,13 , pp. 0.

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

Pinhasi, R. and Mays, S. (2008). Advances in Human Palaeopathology. 

White, T.D. & Folkens, P.A. (2005). The Human Bone Manual. 


Assessment Strategy

The bone fragment tests will be undertaken during the sessions and will assess the on-going learning of human skeletal biology. The skeletal report assesses the understanding of the recording and interpretation of human skeletal material. The essay critiques the more theoretical, practical and ethical aspects of working with human remains.


MethodPercentage contribution
Bone tests 40%
Essay  (2000 words) 25%
Report  (3000 words) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Google+ Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.