MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology


Program Description

This programme gives you the skills to work with human skeletal remains, which are the most direct evidence of past lifeways.

The scientific investigation of human skeletal remains, also known as Bioarchaeology or Physical Anthropology, gives unique insights into human history. Demographic shifts, environmental changes, migrations, the spread of diseases and the impact of violence and conflict all leave traces on the skeleton.

The MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology provides students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills to understand these important skeletal biographies and interpret them in their cultural context (biocultural approach), at the individual and the population level, combining theoretical learning with hands-on practice.

The programme draws on a variety of techniques, ranging from a visual examination of the whole skeleton to the biomolecular analysis of small bone samples. Students gain invaluable hands-on experience with the School's extensive Scottish skeletal collection.

Teaching and student research projects benefit from our wide range of lab facilities and the programme's close relationship with the nearby National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Edinburgh.

Programme structure

The programme involves two semesters of teaching followed by an individual research project and can be tailored to suit you.

The MSc lasts for 12 months from September to the end of August in the following year. To be awarded an MSc you must complete the coursework and a dissertation.

The taught courses are worth a total of 120 credit points and are assessed mainly by essays, class tests, and other practical and written work. Provided you achieve the required standard, you will proceed to a period of individual research from May to August, resulting in a final dissertation worth a further 60 credits.

Taught courses

You will normally take seven courses across two semesters of teaching, including six compulsory courses and an option of your choice.


You will undertake a research project and produce a dissertation which is submitted on an assigned date in mid-August.

Entry requirements

Information on entry requirements for MSc Human Osteoarchaeology students.

You will need a UK 2:1 honours degree, US GPA 3.4 or another 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.

Equivalency of international qualifications

Guidance on the equivalency of international qualifications is provided by the International Office. If you are unsure of the equivalency of your degree, the International Office provides information by country.

English language requirements

If you do not come from a majority English-speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration, you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your spoken and written English.

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)
  • PTE(A): 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 two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Alternatively, we may also be able to accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country for entry (as defined by UK Visas & Immigration), provided the degree is no more three years old at the beginning of your degree programme. In such cases, we may additionally require you to take the University’s Test of English at Matriculation (TEAM). This test is designed to highlight any weaknesses you may have with your English and tuition will be provided for you free of charge.


Find out where your degree can take you.

The programme provides a foundation for further study or your career. Following successful completion of the programme, a large proportion of students continue their studies to PhD level and beyond, and the programme provides the necessary osteoarchaeological knowledge for PhD study involving human skeletal remains. Our graduates have been very successful in pursuing both, commercial and academic careers, and have found employment in commercial archaeological units and government agencies and institutions, in the UK and abroad.

Last updated Nov 2018

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About the School

The School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh is one of the great world centres for the study of the human past. The School comprises the three subject areas of Histor ... Read More

The School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh is one of the great world centres for the study of the human past. The School comprises the three subject areas of History, Classics and Archaeology, together with the Centre for the Study of Modern Conflict, the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies and the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Read less