MSc Bioarchaeology: Human Osteology
Full time 1 year|
Part time 2 years
This exciting and fast-advancing field combines archaeology with branches of the natural sciences to provide insights into past life and death from the study of human skeletal remains. Our MSc has a particular focus on exploring patterns of health, disease and traumatic injury in past populations. You might examine such issues as health and disease in the Bronze Age, battle trauma in the Middle Ages, Roman funerary practices, or gendered division of labour in the Neolithic. You will also have the choice of a wide selection of optional archaeology modules, including the opportunity to broaden your skills to include animal bone analysis.
Our bioarchaeology lab is dedicated to the study of anatomical variation, palaeopathological conditions, and the funerary context of human and animal remains. In addition to the lab we also have a designated store for our substantial collection of human remains, our facilities help researchers and students examine skeletal remains from a variety of archaeological sites. Amongst our equipment we have anatomical casts and demographic reference standards.
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 class texts, 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
- Time Team Archaeologist/Community Archaeologist
- Web Developer
- Laboratory technician
- Police Officer
- Medical doctor
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:
- use of digital technologies for the interpretation of archaeological and forensic data
- development, adaptation and application of scientific methods for use in archaeological and forensic investigations
- 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:
- dedicated bioarchaeology lab
- experimental archaeology laboratories
- clean lab and fume cupboards for preparing stable isotope samples
- landscape archaeology project office, complete with giant scanner for maps and plans
- microscope room equipped with high specification microscopes and image processing facilities
- 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.
In addition, we have recently invested £1.2 million into Digital Humanities to create a new lab and research space for the examination and preservation of important historical, literary and visual artefacts. The lab will enable you to use high-tech equipment to find out more about our cultural heritage, examine items in greater detail and share discoveries with the public. For more information, view our Digital Humanities Lab page.
Normally a minimum 2:1 Honours degree in Archaeology or a related subject (for example, Anthropology, Biology, Geography or Environmental Science). Applicants with non-standard qualifications should contact us to discuss admission.
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
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.
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 2020/21
- UK/EU: £8,750 full-time; £4,375 part-time
- International: £18,500 full-time
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 £10,609 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.
Global Excellence Scholarship
We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2020.
Please note that this scholarship isn't offered for all our masters programmes.
Admissions Office - Exeter
Web: Enquire online
Phone: 0300 555 6060 (UK callers)
+44 (0)1392 723044 (EU/International callers)
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, Danielle Wootton explains the origins of the dig, and the unique features of Ipplepen.