Growth and Disease of the Human Skeleton - ANTB5690

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Patrick Mahoney checkmark-circle


Some diseases leave a characteristic signature on the human skeleton after death, which can be retained in the burial environment. Palaeopathology is the study of these diseases in human skeletons from an archaeological context to infer aspects of life in the past, such as childhood growth, as well as adult diet, activity, health, social interaction (caring, contact), and conflict.

The purpose of this module is to provide theoretical knowledge about the causes and manifestations of skeletal disease, and practical experience identifying and diagnosing palaeopathology. The relationship between skeletal growth and developmental disturbances are considered. Disease, activity, and diet are discussed. Skeletal responses to specific and non-specific infections, as well as neoplastic and traumatic events, are explored.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130
Total study hours: 150


Compulsory to the following courses:
• BSc Human Biology and Behaviour

Optional to the following courses:
• BSc Anthropology
• BSc Biological Anthropology
• (including year abroad and year in professional practice cognates)

Also available as an elective module

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Practical Assessment (30%)
Palaeopathology report* (70%) *This element is pass compulsory and must be passed to achieve the learning outcomes of the module

Reassessment: Coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.

The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module you will be able to:

1. Understand the relationship between human skeletal growth and developmental disturbances.
2. Understand the causes and manifestations of skeletal disease and trauma.
3. Identify, diagnose, and interpret human skeletal disease and trauma.
4. Understand the research themes in human palaeopathology.*
5. Understand how the study of human palaeopathology can inform aspects of life in the past including growth, activity, diet, health, social interaction, and conflict.
6. Critically evaluate new research in human palaeopathology.*

* This element is pass compulsory and must be passed to achieve the learning outcomes of the module.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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