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Postgraduate Taught

MSc Bioarchaeology: Zooarchaeology

Please note: The below is for 2025 entries. Click here for 2024 entries.
UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
2 years part time
Entry year September 2024
Campus Streatham Campus
Discipline Archaeology

Programme Director Abla Oudeh Mahmoud
Web: Enquire online 
Phone: +44 (0)1392 723192 

Typical offer

View full entry requirements

2:2 Honours degree

Contextual offers


  • Our Zooarchaeology course combines traditional archaeology with branches of natural sciences to examine animal remains and their importance in understanding a broad range of economic and cultural issues
  • You will study faunal evidence to develop an understanding of past human interactions with animals and will learn how to interpret past patterns of hunting and husbandry within their environmental and social context
  • Our bioarchaeology lab is dedicated to the study of anatomical variation, palaeopathological conditions, and the funerary context of human and animal remains
  • This fast-advancing field combines archaeology with branches of natural sciences

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Fast Track (current Exeter students)

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Programme Director: Alan Outram 

Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Discover MSc Bioarchaeology: Human Osteology, Zooarchaeology or Forensic Anthropology at Exeter.

Top 100 in world subject rankings for Archaeology

QS World University Subject Rankings 2023

Top 10 in the UK for Archaeology

7th in the Complete University Guide 2024, 9th in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024

4th in the UK for internationally excellent Archaeology research

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Entry requirements

We will consider applicants with a 2:2 Honours degree with 53% or above in their first degree in archaeology, history, ancient history, anthropology, biology, geography, geology, chemistry, heritage, or similar. While we normally only consider applicants who meet these criteria, if you are coming from a different academic background which is equivalent to degree level, or have relevant work experience, we would welcome your application.

You are welcome to make informal approaches to the Programme Director (see above) for advice in advance of your formal application.

Entry requirements for international students

English language requirements

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile B2. Please visit our English language requirements page to view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

Course content

The programme is divided into units of study called modules which are assigned 'credits'. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload, with 1 credit being nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work.

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.


2024/25 entry

UK fees per year:

£12,000 full-time; £6,000 part-time

International fees per year:

£24,300 full-time; £12,150 part-time


We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students. This includes over £5 million in scholarships for international students, such as our Global Excellence Scholarships*.

For more information on scholarships, please visit our scholarships and bursaries page.

*Selected programmes only. Please see the Terms and Conditions for each scheme for further details.

Teaching and research

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 is through a combination of class tests, 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.

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.

Field 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.

Read more

Professor Alan Outram is a bioarchaeologist and palaeoeconomist who specialises in zooarchaeology (the analysis of archaeological animal bones and understanding past human/animal relations).

Some of his most significant work has been on tracing the domestication of the horse in Central Asia, and studying the development of steppe pastoral societies in Kazakhstan. He is also well known as a specialist in bone taphonomy, particularly fracture and fragmentation analysis

Topics of interest include the development of specialist search, location, recovery and recording methods for forensic casework, including work conducted in domestic, international and mass disaster settings. Laura's previous research focused on experimentally testing existing archaeological excavation techniques and recording methods to validate their suitability for use in forensic casework.

Alan teaches on topics such as the archaeology and anthropology of hunter-gatherers, the origins of farming and early pastoral societies, past foodways, and techniques of zooarchaeology, experimental archaeology and general archaeological and forensic sciences. This teaching is always fully informed by his active research in these areas.

Read more from Professor Alan Outram

Professor Alan Outram

Professor of Archaeological Science


As a member of the Archaeology Department and key part of our Postgraduate community you will have full access to our exceptional, modern facilities.

We have dedicated Experimental Archaeology laboratories and workshop spaces.

We have a clean lab with fume cupboards for chemical work.

We have a kiln room, a landscape archaeology project office with a giant scanner for maps and plans, and a microscope room equipped with high specification microscopes and image processing facilities.

We have wet labs for sample processing and we have state of the art surveying equipment which includes resistivity equipment, magnetometers, differential and hand-held GPS, and a total station theodolite.


On top of all that we also have extensive reference collections of artefacts, animal bones and plant remains. So whatever your specific interests within archaeology we have the kit for it.

And of course you will have access to the wider resources of the University too, including the Library, Special Collections and our new Digital Humanities Lab, a £1.2 million lab and research space for the examination and preservation of important historical, literary and visual artefacts. The lab will allow you to use high-tech equipment to find out more about our cultural heritage and examine objects in greater detail. For more information visit our Digital Humanities Lab page.

Read more


Many of our Archaeology students go on to study at PhD level, and the MSc in Bioarchaeology serves as excellent preparation. Your tutors and the Archaeology academic staff will help you put together applications for funding and develop a research proposal if you should choose to take this path.

Of course, doctoral study is not the only option available to you, you will graduate with a full range of skills that will make you competitive in the job market. You will be encouraged to become a productive, useful and questioning member of society.
You will be well placed to go onto work in either commercial archaeology or the wider heritage sector.

Recent careers

Some of our recent graduates have gone on to work directly in Archaeology or the wider Heritage Sector, with careers such as:

  • Archaeological Assistant
  • Experimental Archaeologist
  • Field Archaeologist
  • Museum Curator
  • Time Team Archaeologist/Community Archaeologist

Employment support

While studying at Exeter you can also access a range of activities, advice and practical help to give you the best chance of following your chosen career path. For more information visit our Careers pages.