Faculty of Arts


Human Osteology

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for ANTHRO 748.


The emphasis in this course is on the development of practical skills in the analysis of skeletonised human remains as well as an underlying understanding of the principles involved and the ability to evaluate work in this area whether archaeological or forensic. 

The aim is to introduce you to the preliminaries of human osteology and to give you sufficient knowledge and experience to recognise when it is possible to identify remains, when it is not possible and when further work needs to be done.  

There is a focus upon working in the southern hemisphere (dealing with high degrees of biological variability, the appropriate use of standards and consideration of ethics). Classes include a weekly one to one-and-a-half hour seminar, where we explore research in the field and develop an understanding of best practice, and a weekly one-  to two-hour practical.

Course aims:

  • To introduce students to the basics of human osteology so that they can identify elements and partial elements to side
  • To introduce students to the differentiation of human and animal bone in archaeological and forensic contexts
  • To have students understand the fundamental nature of bone as a living tissue
  • To have students understand the assumptions and principles that underlie the processes of human identification
  • To gain an appreciation of the particular nature of human identification and its ethical considerations within the context of the southern hemisphere
  • To have students develop a further understanding of the theoretical applications of osteological analysis to archaeological and forensic issues

Learning outcomes:

  • To understand the nature of bone, cartilage, enamel and joints
  • To be able to identify skeletal elements to side
  • To be able to distinguish human from relatively complete animal bones
  • To be able to apply the standard methods of ageing, sexing and identification to relatively complete remains
  • To be able to hypothesise and distinguish indicators of taphonomic processes and some basic pathological processes
  • To be able to describe human remains accurately and precisely for archaeological or forensic applications
  • To be able to present that work in a professional manner in oral and written form
  • To be able to evaluate methods of analysis in a thorough manner
  • To be able to evaluate published work in the field with a particular focus upon theory, underlying assumptions and interpretation

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Judith Littleton


ANTHRO 748: 15.0 points



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