Postgraduate study

Human Osteoarchaeology MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Human Osteoarchaeology

Human skeletal remains are the most direct evidence of past lifeways and their scientific investigation gives unique insights into human history. Bioarchaeology, also known as Biological Anthropology, (the study of archaeological human remains) is an exciting field that draws on a variety of techniques, ranging from visual examination of the whole skeleton to the biomolecular analysis of small bone samples. Demographic shifts, environmental changes, migrations, the spread of diseases and the impact of violence and conflict all leave traces on the skeleton.

This MSc provides the skills required to understand skeletal biographies and interpret them in their cultural context at the individual and the population level. Combining theoretical learning with hands-on practice, we will provide you with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills essential to your handling and analysis of specimens recovered from archaeological sites.

Throughout the programme, you’ll take part in lectures, seminars and practical work with archaeological skeletal assemblages and reference collections. Drawing on Edinburgh’s long history in the study of the human body, you will also have the opportunity to visit Surgeons’ Hall Museum and the University's anatomy department, which provide unique collections of pathological and anatomical study specimens.

You will complete six compulsory courses and select one further option. You will be assessed through reports, lab exams, oral and poster presentations, and essays. You will also submit a dissertation on a research topic of your choosing. Past dissertations have ranged from experimental projects on violence in prehistory to dietary studies of Chalcolithic Turkey and considerations of disease and impairment in post-medieval England.

The compulsory courses on this programme are:

  • Human Musculo-Skeletal Anatomy
  • Analytical Methods in Human Osteoarchaeology
  • Quantitative Methods and Reasoning in Archaeology
  • Skeletal Pathology
  • Bioarchaeological Analysis and Interpretation
  • Research Sources and Strategies in Bioarchaeology

Option courses change from year to year and those available when you start your studies may be different from those shown in the list:

  • Exploring the past with data science
  • Practical Zooarchaeology
  • Archaeological Illustration
  • Social Bioarchaeology: Living Conditions, Lifestyles and the Impact of Disease in the Past
  • Biomolecular Archaeology: the appliance of science

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScHuman Osteoarchaeology1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

On successful completion of the programme, you will be able to:

  • identify and interpret human skeletal remains from archaeological sites
  • develop hypothesis testing skills
  • carry out relevant scientific analyses, often in cooperation with experts in other disciplines
  • engage in theoretical and methodological discussions relevant to osteoarchaeology
  • design research strategies based on transferable skills providing a basis for advanced studies (PhD and beyond)

Examples of career paths available to archaeology graduates (although some may require additional training) include: higher education, heritage management and agencies, commercial archaeology, research, consultancy, tourism industry, government agencies and institutions, broadcasting, and laboratory work.

An archaeology degree does not, of course, restrict you to a career in archaeology. The programme also equips you for advanced study.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, a minimum US 3.25 GPA or international equivalent, in a relevant subject such as Archaeology, Anthropology, Anatomy, Medical Sciences and related fields. No previous knowledge of human osteology is required. Depending on the number of eligible applicants, we may need to limit the number of students admitted, based on academic merit.*

We will also consider relevant experience, or professional or other qualifications.

(*Revised 8 November 2019 to include GPA requirement)

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional costs may be incurred if your dissertation involves fieldwork or specialist laboratory analysis.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScHuman Osteoarchaeology1 YearFull-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK government loan schemes. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG
Programme start date Application deadline
14 September 2020 3 August 2020

We strongly recommend you submit your completed application by the end of February 2020, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider later applications if we have places available.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Please read the application guidance for more information:

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG