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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

Programme code


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Course details

Our unique MSc in Bioarchaeology with its pathways in biomolecular archaeology and environmental archaeology provides an excellent academic opportunity for you to develop your fascination with the life of humans in the past through the study of biological materials found during archaeological activity.

You will join an exciting course that reflects the fast-paced world of bioarchaeology, where knowledge and understanding are constantly expanding as a result of new breakthroughs and discoveries. You will have the opportunity to work with the latest developments in archaeological science including human bioarchaeology and palaeopathology, stable isotope mass spectrometry, ancient DNA and environmental archaeology.

The course offers a choice of pathways that will be tailored to your interests. You can choose to specialise in a single branch of bioarchaeology, or to combine subjects to gain a broader overview of this rapidly changing field. Whichever pathway you choose, you will benefit from high quality training in analytical, research and communication skills.

The pathways are MSc Bioarchaeology, which provides a broad overview of bioarchaeology, MSc Bioarchaeology (Biomolecular Archaeology), which focuses on the study of stable isotopes and DNA extracted from biological materials and MSc Bioarchaeology (Environmental Archaeology) focusing on the study of animal bones, plant remains and soils from archaeological contexts.

You will carry out project and dissertation work where you will have the opportunity to play a key role in the creation and application of cutting-edge analytical methods to understand more about human life and environment in the past. The Department is not only at the forefront of creating globally significant innovative solutions in the application of biosciences to archaeological research but is also able to provide you with a supportive learning environment where your bioarchaeological ambitions can flourish.

Course Structure

Core modules

Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science provides a high level of understanding of research methods, study and presentation skills in archaeological science, covering areas such as research ethics, writing and presentation skills, research designs and research application, computing and statistics. 

Topics in Archaeological Science equips you with the skills to explore and debate the current key topics and research themes in archaeology and to critically assess the scientific methods used and also facilitate the development of your original thinking to identify the gaps in knowledge and future research directions. You will find the emphasis will be placed on the need to critically evaluate the application, potential and limitations of a range of techniques and the importance of considering the archaeological context and question.

The Dissertation allows you to develop and demonstrate a range of skills learnt as part of the MSc in Bioarchaeology as well as investigate in depth your approved dissertation topic through library-based, practical, laboratory and/or field techniques. You will also produce a research design for an independent piece of work, perform the proposed work, analyse and present the evidence and provide clear arguments and conclusions.

The remaining two modules are chosen from options, which have previously included:

  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Osteoprofiling
  • Isotopic and Biomolecular Archaeology
  • Practical Guided Study
  • Research Topics in Archaeology
  • Current Themes in Human Bioarchaeology


The course offers the option to study one year full-time or two years part-time, through a rigorous and fulfilling series of lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, practical classes, as well as a supervised dissertation. 

Lectures provide key information on specific topics in bioarchaeology, and importantly, identify areas for discussion and debate that will take place in your subsequent seminars and tutorials.

You will gain valuable direct experience and essential skills in recording, analysing and interpreting bioarchaeological data in the series of practical classes and workshops under the guidance of experienced, world-leading scientists.

Finally, through supervised projects and dissertations, you will have the opportunity to put your knowledge and skills into practice, and to produce a substantial piece of independent, original research.


Assessment of your work and progress through the course is varied but nevertheless rigorous in its focus on your learning achievements.

You will be assessed via a range of essays, reports, and skills-based exercises such as statistics exercises, a grant application or project design. The MSc culminates in a written 15,000-word dissertation based on original research you have carried out.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class (2:1) degree (GPA 3.3.) or equivalent in Archaeology, Anthropology, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, or related disciplines. Relevant working experience will also be considered. 

IELTS 7.0 or above with no component below 6.5; TOEFL IBT (Internet Based Test) 102 or above (with no component below 25).

Application Deadlines

There is no specific deadline for applications, although applications for any given academic year must be received before the start of that academic year (i.e. applications for the 2023/24 academic year must be received before October 2023).

Home/EU applicants are strongly recommended to apply by September to allow sufficient time for their applications to be processed before the start of the academic year. Overseas applicants are strongly recommended to apply by July, since they will need their Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) number to be issued before they can apply for a visa.

Tuition fee deposit

All self-financing overseas students are required to pay a £1,000 tuition fee deposit if an offer from the Department of Archaeology is accepted. The tuition fee deposit is paid before the University issues a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) number, which is required in order to apply for a visa.

A £500 deposit is also payable by UK applicants if an offer of a place from the Department of Archaeology is accepted.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £11,900 per year
EU students £26,500 per year
Island students £11,900 per year
International students £26,500 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,600 per year
EU students £14,600 per year
Island students £6,600 per year
International students £14,600 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

Department information


The Department of Archaeology is home to one of the largest postgraduate communities in Europe who benefit from world class academic teaching and leading-edge facilities to be able to pursue their passion for studying the past, interpreting the present and understanding the future.

The wide-ranging courses are research-led and delivered by staff who are recognised experts in specialisms that span world, European and British archaeology from the last ice age to the post-medieval period.

Our taught courses provide the ideal grounding for further academic research at a higher level but also offer essential preparation for entering a professional career.

They include MA Museum and Artefact Studies, MA International Cultural Heritage Management, and MA Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects, all of which have strong vocational themes. The MSc Bioarchaeology and MA Archaeology offer ideal preparation for research careers and specialisation and our unique MSc Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology and MSc Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology are ideal for postgraduates nurturing both academic and professional aspirations.

We welcome applications from researchers seeking MRes and PhD qualifications tailored to specific interests, and we offer strong developmental support.

With our expertise in a wide range of archaeological disciplines and significant research activity across the globe, our aim is to create a top-class learning environment that is vibrant and supportive and enables you to make a difference in your chosen field.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 10th in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Archaeology 2023
  • 1st in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see our Archaeology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 97% of our research outputs graded world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021)
  •  2nd in the UK top ten for the overall quality of research (REF 2021)


The Department of Archaeology has a reputation for excellence and connections across the world.

We are home to state-of-the-art laboratories, specialist technology and some of the best library resources in the UK. We have project rooms with interactive technology, teaching laboratories, a computer suite, a photographic studio and scientific research laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotopes, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, palaeopathology and bone chemistry, many of which are used as learning resources for out postgraduate community.

Taught courses and researchers alike benefit from our status as co-owners of a UNESCO World Heritage site and the extensive range of library, museum and artefact collection resources on offer at Durham.

The Department of Archaeology can be found in the Dawson Building, which is ideally situated at the heart of the Durham city campus, next to the Bill Bryson Library and the Palatine Centre.

More information on our facilities and equipment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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