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Course length

1 year full-time


Durham City

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Course details

This exciting new MSc will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue further research in forensic archaeology and anthropology, and/or find employment, either within a forensics-related profession or the graduate market more generally.

This is an intensive, hands-on practical course, which includes extensive analysis of human skeletal remains, mock court experience, excavation of ‘mass graves’, and knowledge of the legal and ethical issues associated with forensic contexts.

This MSc is aimed at graduates from a variety of backgrounds, who seek knowledge, experience and skills in forensic archaeology and anthropology. The course is unique in the UK in terms of its strong international humanitarian focus, and the research excellence that is at its core. The course has been designed to align with the UN Sustainability Goals, in particular peace and justice.

Course structure

Core modules:

Term 1:

  • Osteoprofiling
  • Research Skills in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology

Term 2:

  • Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology: Theory and Practice

Examples of optional modules:

  • Isotope and Biomolecular Archaeology
  • Palaeopathology: Theory and Method

Term 3:

  • Dissertation


The course is delivered through an exciting and challenging mixture of lectures, seminars, hands-on practical classes, and mock forensic scenarios, to ensure effective and realistic training in different forensic contexts. Learning materials include case studies from many parts of the world, including non-white and indigenous perspectives to facilitate the engagement of learners from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. Lectures consist of engaging, accessible oral and visual presentations so that students gain up-to-date, research-led, information relating to the main areas in forensic archaeology and anthropology. Method-based content discussed in lectures will be followed up by practical classes to allow intensive hands-on experience of analytical procedures on real human skeletal remains in our dedicated human osteology laboratory.

At Durham, we curate large collections of human skeletal remains, including many pathological examples. These are an important component of the course, facilitating independent and group work, as well as hands-on experience under laboratory conditions, providing essential skills for your future working environment. You will have access to the human bone laboratory for independent study outside of formal teaching hours and we encourage you to use these resources as much as possible. You will also have laboratory experience of a range of biomolecular techniques of analysis and their applicability to forensic scenarios. Fieldtrips are planned to supplement knowledge on forensic practice and to gain knowledge of the operational facilities and professional practice of dealing with death investigations, including international mass disasters. Seminars, workshops, tutorials and guest lectures will be provided to deepen understanding of specific forensic issues with a particular focus on international humanitarian contexts. You will have the opportunity to engage in research, professional practice, and to develop and demonstrate research skills in subject areas that interest you. You will be part of a vibrant bioarchaeology community here at Durham!

In term 1 you will take Osteoprofiling, taught through lectures and practical laboratory sessions. The module focuses on the identification of human skeletal remains, including fragmentary remains, the application of methods relevant to constructing and osteological profile, and an understanding of the parameters of these methods. As well as discussing the methods used and their practice, this module also discusses their theoretical underpinnings and limitations. During this term you will also take Research Skills in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology. This module includes lectures and seminars on the ethics and legislative requirements of forensic archaeology, as well as frameworks of standardisation of practice, computing and IT skills, including statistical analysis, the searching of proprietary and open databases, research design, and a range of analytical skills in forensic archaeology and anthropology. A mock court and expert witness skills will also form part of the practical component.

During term 2 you will take Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology: Theory and Practice. It will include key learning on the processes of taphonomic change affecting bodily decay, and parameters involved in formulating a forensic strategy. You will gain knowledge of key terms, concepts, approaches and debates in forensic archaeology and anthropology in practice across a global humanitarian forensic context, including examples of genocide, disaster victim identification, finding the missing in post-conflict regions and refugee crises.

For your second module of Term 2 you are able to choose either:

Palaeopathology: Theory and Method, which require intensive lab-based learning and focuses on the identification, diagnosis and interpretation of pathological and traumatic lesions in the human skeleton. Or:

Isotope and Biomolecular Archaeology in which you will acquire theoretical and practical understanding of the principles and practice of elemental, isotopic and DNA analysis in bioarchaeology and forensic science, and the key questions that these methods can address.

Throughout the degree you will work alongside research active staff and are asked to continually reflect and critique methods and practice. These skills prove essential during the term 3, when you come to prepare their dissertation research design and undertake the Dissertation, a major piece of independent research.

Academic Support

All students are assigned an academic advisor. For this degree programme the adviser will be the course director and/or one of the other key members of academic staff delivering the degree programme.

Furthermore, Module Tutors will provide students with specific academic support (including written and oral feedback on formative and summative assessments) and the module convenor for academic advice and support concerning a specific module and assessment

Among the features of the Department's teaching staff are their availability and approachability, so students are welcome to bring them any queries at any time.

Entry requirements

Candidates are expected to have a minimum of a 2.1 degree or equivalent. You might have a UG degree in Archaeology, Anthropology, Forensic or Crime Scene Science. However, students from a wide variety of backgrounds are admitted, including students with undergraduate degrees in Natural and Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geography, as well Classics and History.

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

English language requirements

Fees and funding

The tuition fees for 2023/24 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

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


Our internationally respected research expertise will provide you with some of the best resources available for archaeological research. Here at Durham, we have one of only three commercial archaeology units in the UK based in a university department. You will be able to work with experts and have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and specialised facilities in the Department of Archaeology.

For more information see our department pages.


  • 8th in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Archaeology 2022
  • 6th in The Complete University Guide 2023
  • 7th in The Guardian University Guide 2023


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)


We are one of the most comprehensively equipped archaeology departments in the UK. Our facilities include project rooms with state-of-the-art interactive technology, teaching laboratories, a computer suite, a photographic studio, internationally renowned scientific research laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotopes, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, palaeopathology, soil and bone chemistry, and collections that support research in biometrics, informatics, and Anglo Saxon stone sculpture.

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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