The University of Southampton

ARCH6126 Bioarchaeology of Human Remains

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. The module will start by detailing the skeletal anatomy of the human body. In this part of the module, you will learn detailed skeletal human bioarchaeology. In the later part of the module, you will start to implement more interpretative aspects, such as assigning age, sex and stature to skeletons. Aspects of health and disease, and the identification of palaleopathology, will be developed and considered. You will also study aspects of funerary archaeology and its integration with skeletal studies and taphonomy to develop archaeologies of death and burial.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • varying approaches to the analysis of human skeletal remains
  • the ethical issues surrounding working with human remains
  • 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


The module syllabus will typically include the following components: • The nature of bone & outline of the human skeleton: this will encompass briefly considering the construction of bone and the organisation of the human skeleton. • Skulls & axial skeleton: the skeletal anatomy of the head, vertebrae, pelvis, scapulae, clavicles and sternum • Limbs, long bones, hands and feet: skeletal anatomy of the arms and legs, distinguishing hands from feet • Teeth, dentitions and dental health: or… why you should remember to brush your teeth • Estimating age and sex: children, the differences between social, chronological and biological ages, and between sex and gender • Stature and body size: reconstructing adult height • Trauma, battlefields and bodies: breaking bones, weaponry and bodily protection • Palaeopathology, disease and infection, including study of syphilis, TB, and leprosy • Metrics, non-metrics, biodistance and ethnicity, including critique of whether race exists • Taphonomy, burial ritual and funerary archaeology: how can we get an identity from bioarchaeology? • Migration, mobility & chemical analyses (aDNA, isotopes): where do these people come from and what did they eat? • Ethics of working with human remains: what are the ethical considerations of study, curation and repatriation?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lecture detailing aspects of skeletal identification or methodology • Short student presentations on key bioarchaeology texts • Practical work developing bioarchaeological identification and analysis skills Learning activities include • Practical work • Summative bone fragment tests • Role play • Peer review of bone report in advance of submission

Practical classes and workshops32
Completion of assessment task52
Wider reading or practice50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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

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

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

Larsen, C.S. (1997). Bioarchaeology. 

Hillson, S. (1997). Dental Anthropology. 

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Bass, W. (1987). Human Osteology. 

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Bone tests 40%
Report 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Bone tests 40%
Report 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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.