Palaeopathology - ANTB5690

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
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


BSc Anthropology
BSc Biological Anthropology

Method of assessment

Essay (2500 words) (25%)
Course Test (25%)
Palaeopathology Report (50%)

Reassessment: Like for Like

Indicative reading

Roberts, C. and Manchester, K. Archaeology of Disease. 2005. Cornell University Press.

Burns, Karen Ramey The Forensic Anthropology Training Manual. 1999. Prentice Hall

One standard human osteology reference: White, Tim D. Human Osteology 3rd Ed. 2012. Academic Press.

Optional texts:

Ortner, D. Identification of Pathological Disorders. 2003. Academic Press.

Aufderheide, A.C. and Rodriguez-Martin, C. (Eds.) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Palaeopathology. 1998. Cambridge University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Understand the relationship between human skeletal growth and developmental disturbances.
8.2 Understand the causes and manifestations of skeletal disease and trauma.
8.3 Identify, diagnose, and interpret human skeletal disease and trauma.
8.4 Understand the research themes in human palaeopathology.
8.5 Understand how the study of human palaeopathology can inform aspects of life in the past including growth, activity, diet, health, social interaction, and conflict.
8.6 Critically evaluate new research in human palaeopathology.


  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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