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The University of Southampton

ARCH6420 Palaeopathology in Context

Module Overview

The module comprises 2 sections; the first comprises seminars based upon current theoretical and methodological developments within palaeopathology and bioarchaeology, 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 in palaeopathology and bioarchaeology.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module will introduce palaeopathological methods and analysis (focussing on 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 both human and faunal skeletal remains
  • the ethical issues surrounding working with human remains
  • evaluate results of analyses and studies
  • critique data and the interpretations derived from such data
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake palaeopathological analyses and the methods for differential diagnosis of skeletal disorders and pathology
  • 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
  • write skeletal reports to the standard required by English Heritage, Historic England and archaeological contractors
  • integrate theoretical issues and archaeological questions with empirical data derived from bioarchaeology
  • pose and tackle archaeological questions using skeletal data
  • critique specific techniques and methods of osteological analysis
  • pose and tackle archaeological questions using skeletal and pathological data
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake analysis and presentation of quantitative data including the writing of detailed reports (suitable for publication)
  • demonstrate awareness of ethical issues


The organisation of the syllabus will vary from year to year depending upon staff availability. The following topics will normally be included: Human bone assessment and reporting Roles of human osteologists in a commercial environment Assessment of skeletal material and purposes of an assessment Identification and scoring of joint disease Skeletal ageing techniques in bone reporting & links with disease prevalence Metric and non-metric variation Skeletal anomalies Diagnosis and recording of unusual skeletal pathology Differential diagnosis & problematic cases. Medical Imaging in osteoarchaeology & palaeopathology Themes to be covered in the seminars will be based upon the latest issues in bioarchaeology & palaeopathology research, but will commonly include: Urbanisation, the Industrial Revolution, social inequality & disease Bioarchaeology, pathology & identity Ethics and the dead Diet & disease interactions Bioarchaeology of disability & care

Special Features

This module will require hands-on work with real archaeological human skeletons and skeletal fragments. All students are required to be aware of the ethical issues arising from working with human remains and to maintain ethical working practices with such collections.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching sessions will comprise lectures, guided practicals and student-led group seminars.

Practical classes and workshops6
Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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

Aufderheide, AC & Rodriguez-Martin, C (1998). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Paleopathology. 

Larsen, CS (2015). Bioarchaeology. 

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

Ortner, DJ (2003). Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment  () 30%
Case study report  () 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Case study report  () 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

Linked modules



Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


No specific costs associated with this module have been identified.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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