MSc Bioarchaeology

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Archaeology
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September


Bioarchaeology is an exciting and fast-advancing field which combines archaeology with branches of the natural sciences to study key topics such as past health and well-being, diet, ecology, subsistence strategies and environmental impacts.

Our MSc in Bioarchaeology aims to develop a broad understanding of these issues through the study of human remains. Students on this programme will also have the opportunity to study animal remains, as well as floral and faunal evidence depending which pathway they choose to follow. 

The three available Bioarchaeology pathways are:

The programme develops advanced practical skills in skeletal analysis, making use of the department’s well-provisioned specialist laboratories and reference collections. A particular strength of our provision is that we are able to address the bioarchaeology of both the New and Old Worlds. Those completing the programme acquire the skills necessary to continue into academic research or employment, as an osteologist in field units, museums or CRM companies.

It allows you to specialise in one of two named pathways: Human Osteology (physical anthropology and funerary archaeology) or Zooarchaeology (animal bones and other faunal remains).

Programme structure

The MSc in Bioarchaeology is split into three separate pathways with different compulsory and optional modules for each. Details of the module choices for each pathway can be found on the relevant page.

The three available Bioarchaeology pathways are:

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

We seek to educate students in stimulating ways so as to develop intellectual skills for life and employment in the contemporary world, and provide a sound appreciation of archaeology.

Most of the formal classes that you attend will be based on a mixture of lectures, seminars, and workshops. The precise mix will vary between modules. These aim to outline the principal issues of the module, to explore some detailed issues, and, where relevant, to give you experience of working with a particular technique or data set.

All members of staff are actively engaged in research, both in Britain and abroad, and regularly attend conferences, symposia and workshops. It is through this active engagement in the discipline that we are able to supply top quality teaching by experts in their field and as a result we have a 24/24 grading for our teaching from the Quality Assurance Agency.

In addition to our established palaeobotany, experimental archaeology, and microscopy laboratories, we have a new bioarchaeology lab dedicated to the study of anatomical variation, palaeopathological conditions, and the funerary context of human and animal remains. The laboratory, accompanied by a designated store for the Department's collection of human remains, provides facilities for use by researchers and students for examining skeletal remains recovered from archaeological sites. Equipment includes anatomical casts and demographic reference standards used to determine the sex, age-at-death, stature and body proportions from human remains.

The assessment for the MSc Bioarchaeology (Human Osteology) is through a combination of essays, other written reports and projects, oral or electronic presentations, visual presentations, and a dissertation. The dissertation of up to 15,000 words is an original piece of research on a topic of your choice, subject to the approval of your supervisor.


The Archaeology programmes at Exeter are designed to develop your skills of analysis, assessment and interpretation as well as the production of written and oral reports. The broad-based nature of the subject and the skills it provides give a strong grounding for a wide range of careers, not only those related to archaeology but also in the wider fields of teaching, administration and business. Some graduates combine their initial job with voluntary archaeological work or with further part time study of the subject.

Some destinations of graduates from Archaeology programmes are:

  • Archaeological Assistant
  • Experimental Archaeologist
  • Field Archaeologist
  • Learning Resources Coordinator
  • Museum Curator
  • PhD in Archaeology
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Press Executive
  • Teacher
  • Time Team Archaeologist/Community Archaeologist
  • Web Developer

Research areas

Bioarchaeological research at Exeter combines the study of archaeology with branches of the natural and physical sciences to address questions of health and well-being, diet, ecology, subsistence strategies and natural and human-induced environmental impacts in the past.

Our approach is holistic and inter-disciplinary, drawing its inspiration from both definitions of ‘bioarchaeology’: as a study applied to human remains (human osteoarchaeology) and, as originally defined by Grahame Clark, as related to the integration of environmental archaeology, floral and faunal evidence – archaeobotany and zooarchaeology – in archaeological research.

Active field research programmes in North and South America and Eurasia link with extensive laboratory research to address questions of social structure and social organisation, the process of animal and plant domestication, the development of social inequality and power relations, violence and warfare, the rise of élites and craft specialists, and division of labour. Our current research covers a range of themes:

  • the origins and development of social inequality, violence and warfare
  • morphological alteration in response to physical activity and labour in the rise of craft specialists and elites across political, social and economic transitions
  • changing patterns of resource exploitation of plants and animals
  • human – environment relations, in particular the early domestication of plants and animals, and the legacy of past human impact on modern environments
  • how social relationships in the past contribute to funerary patterning in the archaeological record and how these relate to social processes amongst the living.


We have outstanding facilities that include:

  • experimental archaeology laboratories
  • clean lab with fume cupboards for chemical work
  • a landscape archaeology project office, complete with giant scanner for maps and plans
  • microscope room equipped with highspec microscopes and image processing facilities
  • a kiln room for ceramics and other experimental purposes
  • wet labs for artefact and environmental sample processing
  • sets of high and low-power teaching microscopes
  • state-of-the-art surveying equipment (including resistivity equipment, magnetometer, differential and hand-held GPS and total station theodolite).

We also have extensive reference collections of artefacts, animal bones and plant remains. Find out more about our facilities on the Archaeology website.

Entry requirements 2017

Entry requirements

An appropriate degree in Archaeology or a related subject (for example, Archaeology, Geography, Anthropology, Environmental Science, History, Ancient History or Classics.), normally at 2:1 level or above. Applicants with non-standard qualifications should contact the College of Humanities Postgraduate Administrator to discuss admission.

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements. 

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2017/18

  • UK/EU: £7,500 full-time; £3,750 part-time
  • International: £16,500 full-time

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Scholarships and other funding

Find out about funding opportunities available to students on our taught Masters programmes in Archaeology.

Contact us

College of Humanities
Postgraduate Administrator
Phone: +44 (0)1392 725306

Department of Archaeology
Phone: +44 (0) 1392 724350

Select a programme

Fast Track
Current Exeter students
Funding Visit subject website

Fieldwork at Ipplepen

In 2010 the University of Exeter, the British Museum and Devon County Council started a survey and excavation that aimed to explore the nature of this Roman and early medieval British site. In this short video, MSc student Holly Hunt Watts talks about her involvement in the dig, making drawings and plans.