Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods - MSc

2019

This new MSc programme equips you with the ability to excavate and analyse human remains.

2019

Overview

Learn the practical skills needed to recover human remains in the field. Gain the theoretical knowledge needed to reconstruct biological profiles from hard tissue, supported by laboratory based training.

You learn from a team of internationally respected academics with extensive professional experience. You have the opportunity to access one of the largest human skeletal collections in the UK, with extensive skeletal pathology and accompanying radiographs. The collection is curated by the Skeletal Biology Research Centre, in the School's Human Osteology Research Laboratory.

The programme is suited for students from a wide range of BA and BSc backgrounds. This MSc will provide a firm foundation for continued work, or PhD research, in anthropology, archaeology and related forensic fields.

For more information about this new MSc programme please contact the programme director Dr Chris Deter: c.a.deter@kent.ac.uk

About the School of Anthropology and Conservation

With specialisation in forensics and paleopathology, osteology, evolutionary psychology and the evolutionary ecology and behaviour of great apes Kent is one of the largest institutions for biological anthropolgy. The School also houses the Skeletal Biology Research Centre (SBRC) which brings together innovative research, novel methodologies and international collaborations.  Kent Osteological Research and Analysis (KORA) is an enterprise unit based within SBRC offers osteological analyses of human skeletal remains.

Kent has pioneered the social anthropological study of Europe, Latin America, Melanesia, and Central and Southeast Asia, the use of computers in anthropological research, and environmental anthropology in its widest sense (including ethnobiology and ethnobotany). We maintain an active research culture, with staff working in many different parts of the world.

Our regional expertise covers Europe, the Middle East, Central, Southeast and Southern Asia, Central and South America, Amazonia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Polynesia.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Anthropology and Conservation was ranked 10th for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research impact and research power.

An impressive 94% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

In the latest Student Barometer survey 100% of our postgraduate students were satisfied with the academic content of their course and 97% said they found their programme intellectually stimulating.

Course structure

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

For detailed information about the modules offered by this programme please contact the programme convenor: Dr Chris Deter C.A.Deter@kent.ac.uk

Modules may include Credits

In this module students are introduced to the human skeleton (adult and juvenile) and soft tissue (major muscle groups) identification. They are provided with in depth information on how to identify individual bones (complete and fragmented), how to side paired bones by being familiarly with all pertinent landmarks on the bone. Students will gain advanced knowledge of the origin and insertion of all major muscle groups. They will be introduced to size and shape variation present in the human skeleton including variations due to biological sex, ethnic affinity and temporal changes.

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15

This module is fundamental to this MSc where students learn various stages of postmortem decay to human remains, focusing largely on environmental effects—including decomposition in soil and interaction with plants, insects, and other animals. Other topics covered are; PMI methods (time elapsed since death), biotaphonomy, and geotaphonomy.

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15

This module will give students an in-depth knowledge of the histological mechanisms underpinning the growth of human bones and teeth. These mechanisms will be linked to diseases processes. This will provide a foundation to identify the surface manifestations of disease that can be seen macroscopically. Students will learn the criteria needed to identify a selection of skeletal diseases. Upon completion, students will have gained theoretical knowledge about the causes of disease, and practical 'hands on' experience identifying and diagnosing skeletal disease, both microscopically and macroscopically. Half of the instruction in this module will be by lecture (as currently taught in SE569 which MSc students will attend). Labs will be specific to students following this module.

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15

This module will teach students the steps from finding human remains (mapping and carrying out a survey) to taking the remains into the lab for analysis. Students gain experience in designing and laying out an excavation grid, learning how to record and photograph human remains and contextual evidence found in the field. Finally the students will have hands on learning experience in recording and bagging the finds and creating a chain of evidence. This module will look at the challenges of a single and multiple burials and mass disasters.

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15

This module is an advanced treatment of current topics and debates in evolutionary anthropology such as human behavioural ecology, anthropological genetics, evolutionary demography, growth and development, human evolution, primatology, and human adaptability. Emphasis is on advances in these areas during the past decade and the directions of future research. The goal of this course is to understand these topics and, specifically, how research and publication works in evolutionary and anthropological science. This module will allow students to be exposed to a broad series of topics, opinions, methodologies, journal articles, and ideas in numerous highly relevant fields of research. Seminars will critically examine classic and recent journal articles, considering the quality of research and presentation, and the utility and diversity of using Darwinian approaches to explore and explain human behaviour.

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15

Evidential practice and law in relation to location, recovery, preservation, and interpretation of a wide range of forensic samples.

Statement and report writing, and witness interview to evidential standard.

Incident assessment and management in a wide variety of forensic environments.

Location, recovery and preservation of a range of forensic samples using our new crime scene house and garden, including: Fingerprints, DNA, fibres, trace samples, blood distribution patterns, gunshot residues, tool marks and impressions, foot shoe and tyre prints, sexual offence samples.

Incident mapping and photography.

Document and forgery analysis.

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15

This module will introduce students to research design and hypothesis testing, drawing upon the different scientific approaches used in biological and forensic anthropology. Core statistical components, such as inference for parametric statistical testing, will be covered. This module will have an extensive, computer practical-based component that will enable students to run advanced statistical tests (univariate and multivariate), which will be supported by lectures. Upon completion students will understand the principle qualitative and quantitative analytical approaches to research, and the best ways of presenting results.

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15

The dissertation project is a piece of independent research carried out by the student. Before undertaking the research, students are trained in research design and planning, statistical analysis and writing skills. A project supervisor is allocated to each student and students are expected to produce a research plan and budget for their proposed programme of research in conjunction with the supervisor. Students will intensively discuss methods of data collection, theoretical models for the analysis of this material, and the use and integration of research methods into both its preparation and its final presentation with his or her supervisor. The programme of research may consist of a literature review, analysis of existing data sets, analysis of newly-collected field or laboratory data. The student will work independently on the dissertation over the summer term and summer vacation until early September when it will be submitted. The topic of the dissertation must be directly relevant to the programme of study.

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60

Teaching and Assessment

Modules are taught using a variety of methods including practical based modules taught in the field, lectures and seminars, demonstration, group projects, weekly bone quizzesand practical lab sessions that are supported through textbooks. Current journal articles on methodologies and theories support both the labs and lectures.  

Assessment will be though practical demonstrations during lab sessions, lab reports, independent and group course work exercises and research dissertations. 

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • Provide an excellent standard of higher education.
  • Provide teaching informed by research and scholarship.
  • Develop a sound knowledge of laboratory-based scientific methods, and other skills, which will be of value within forensic osteology, but can also be transferred to archaeology, biological anthropology, and bioarchaeology.
  • Develop an awareness of professional and ethical standards and practices.  
  • Attain a deep knowledge, and experience of, techniques relevant to forensic osteology, as well as their practical application.
  • Critical awareness of, and engagement with, current research methods and techniques.
  • Develop the ability to learn independently.
  • Prepare students for employment, or further post-graduate doctoral study in Forensics, Biological Anthropology, and Archaeology.  
  • Provide learning opportunities that are enjoyable, involve realistic workloads, based within a practical framework, with appropriate support for students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Provide high quality teaching in a supportive environment with appropriately qualified and trained staff.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • Field recovery of human remains
  • Identification of human hard and soft tissue
  • Analysis of human hard tissue

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • Quantitative analysis
  • Problem solving 
  • Practical skills

Subject-specific skills

You gain the following subject-specific skills:

  • Skeletal identification
  • Biological profiling
  • Field recovery and laboratory skills 

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferrable skills:

  • Communication both orally and in writing
  • Independent learning ability required for continued professional development

Careers

Higher degrees in forensic anthropology create opportunities in many employment sectors including academia, archaeology, police sector, the civil service and non-governmental organizations through work in areas such as human rights. A forensic anthropology degree also develops interpersonal and intercultural skills, which make our graduates highly desirable in any profession that involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

As a School recognised for its excellence in research we are one of the partners in the South East Doctoral Training Centre, which is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This relationship ensures that successful completion of our courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Master’s qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School has a lively postgraduate community drawn together not only by shared resources such as postgraduate rooms, computer facilities (with a dedicated IT officer) and laboratories, but also by student-led events, societies, staff/postgraduate seminars, weekly research student seminars and a number of special lectures.

The School houses well-equipped research laboratories for genetics, ecology, visual anthropology, virtual paleoanthropology, Animal Postcranial Evolution, biological anthropology, anthropological computing, botany, osteology and ethnobiology. The state-of-the-art visual anthropology laboratory is stocked with digital editing programmes and other facilities for digital video and photographic work, and has a photographic darkroom for analogue developing and printing. 

Kent has outstanding anthropology IT facilities. Over the last decade, the School has been associated with many innovatory projects, particularly in the field of cognitive anthropology. It provides an electronic information service to other anthropology departments, for example by hosting both the Anthropological Index Online and Experience-Rich Anthropology project. We encourage all students to use the Centre’s facilities (no previous experience or training is necessary).

Anthropology at Kent has close links with the nearby Powell-Cotton Museum, which has one of the largest ethnographic collections in the British Isles and is particularly strong in sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian material. It also houses an extensive comparative collection of primate and other mammalian material. Human skeletal material is housed at the Kent Osteological Research and Analysis Centre within the School.

Anthropology, together with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) form the School of Anthropology and Conservation.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in biological anthropology or other associated fields (eg., Forensic Science; Archaeology; Anatomy). In certain circumstances, we will consider students who have not followed a conventional education path. These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Programme Convenor, Dr Chris Deter C.A.Deter@kent.ac.uk

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.  Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: American EthnologistCurrent AnthropologyJournal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteAmerican Journal of Physical AnthropologyProceedings of the Royal Society B; and Journal of Human Evolution.

Biological Anthropology

Our research encompasses a broad range of topics within biological and evolutionary anthropology, including bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, archaeological science, human reproductive strategies, hominin evolution, primate behaviour and ecology, modern human variation, and cultural. We have three dedicated research laboratories, as well as a commercial osteology unit. 

Our research takes us to many regions of the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and United States).  We collaborate with international research organisations, including the Instituto de Biología Subtropical (Argentina), German Primate Center, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and Budongo Conservation Field Station (Uganda).  Members of staff provide a wide research network offering research opportunities in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

Skeletal Biology

Our Skeletal Biology Research Centre is the only UK Centre focusing on analysis of biological hard tissues (bones and teeth). It brings together innovative research, novel methodologies and international collaborations, with expertise and resources from Physical Sciences and Biosciences at Kent, and the Powell-Cotton Museum. Research ranges from analyses of the most important human fossils, histological studies of teeth and bone, isotopic analyses and dietary reconstruction, virtual 3D analyses of the skeleton, and forensic identification that together ultimately aim to better understand humans and our evolutionary history.

Primatology

The Living Primates Research Group fosters research into the behaviour and ecology of primates. It addresses questions concerning adaptation using living primates as model species, to provide a comparative framework for the understanding of human biology and behaviour, and investigate the biological and social dimensions of anthropogenic impacts on non-human primates (NHPs). Research ranges from functional morphology to behavioural ecology and physiology, cultural primatology, and the interplay of primate biology, ecology and conservation, including primate rehabilitation and reintroduction and human-NHP coexistence. 

Social Anthropology

The regional expertise of our staff has a global reach, with field sites in Europe (including UK), the Middle East, the Balkans, South Asia, Amazonia and Central America, Oceania and Southeast Asia. Themes of conflict, violence, the economic crisis and precarity form a major focus of our current work in these areas, alongside new research on austerity and its social impact, and charity. We have emerging interests in social inequality, work, and organised crime and corruption; and are internationally recognised for our work on ethnicity, nationalism, and identity.

Our research extends to intercommunal violence, diasporas, pilgrimage, intercommunal trade, urban ethnogenesis, indigenous representation and the study of contemporary religions and their global connections (especially Islam). History and heritage is another key theme, with related interests in time and temporality, and the School hosts the leading journal History and Anthropology. Other research addresses the anthropology of natural resources; anthropology of tourism; and post-socialist economy and society in Europe and Central Asia.

We research issues in fieldwork and methodology more generally, with a strong interest in the field of visual anthropology. Our work on identity and locality links with growing strengths in kinship and parenthood. This is complemented by work on the language of relatedness, and the cognitive bases of kinship terminologies

A final focus concerns science, medical anthropology and contemporary society. We work on the anthropology of business, biotechnology, and mental health. Related research focuses on policy and advocacy issues and examines the connections between public health policy and local healing strategies. Staff collaborations and networks extend widely across these regions and thematic interests, and Kent is well-known for its pioneering engagement with the anthropology of Europe.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Geraldine Fahy: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Stable isotope analysis, physical anthropology, forensic analysis, dietary ecology, paleopathology.

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Professor Tracy Kivell: Professor of Biological Anthropology

Functional morphology of the wrist and hand; extant and fossil apes; origin of human bipedalism and hand use; ontogeny; biomechanics of primate locomotion.

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Dr Patrick Mahoney: Senior Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Evolutionary developmental biology of hominoid dentition; bioarchaeology, especially prehistoric human diet; palaeopathology.

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Dr Matthew Skinner: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Human evolution; dental anthropology; skeletal functional morphology; growth and development of hard tissues.

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Dr Chris Deter: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Dietary reconstruction of ancient human populations, funerary practices in ancient populations and the change in pale diets of North American and Near Eastern hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists.

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Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher: Reader in Primate Behavioural Ecology

Evolutionary ecology and behaviour of mammals with an emphasis on primates, in particular chimpanzees, including male-female aggression and sexual coercion, hunting behaviour, social behaviour, feeding ecology and ranging patterns.

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Dr Sarah Johns: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology; timing of life-history events; human reproduction, especially variation of the age at first birth and the evolved psychology of reproductive decision making.

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Dr Brandon Wheeler: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Primates; behavioural ecology; socioecology; communication; predation; feeding competition; cognition.

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Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9100 £19000
Part-time £4550 £9500

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

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