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Course length

1 year full-time


Durham City

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Course details

This fascinating MSc, with its strong international humanitarian focus and alignment with UN sustainability goals of peace and justice, equips you with the skills and knowledge to work or carry out research in the sensitive, and at times, highly emotive, field of forensic archaeology and anthropology. The course is informed by innovative work carried out by researchers in the Department of Archaeology.

Taking a hands-on approach to learning, this intensive course gives you the opportunity to experience activities such as the extensive analysis of human skeletal remains and get involved in a range of mock scenarios including excavating ‘mass graves’ and creating osteoprofiles as well as mock courtroom experiences when you will serve as an expert witness.

We curate an extensive human skeletal collection in the Department, and you will receive access to the human bone laboratory for independent study. You will also gain experience in a range of biomolecular techniques of analysis in state-of-the-art research facilities that include laboratories in DNA, conservation, isotope analysis, environmental archaeology, luminescence dating, paleopathology and bone chemistry.

You will learn how to apply this knowledge and these techniques to different forensic scenarios and acquire the grounding to perform further research in forensic archaeology and anthropology or achieve a rewarding professional career, either within forensics or elsewhere.

Course Structure

Core modules

Research Skills in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology gives you the opportunity to develop an advanced understanding of key concepts, research methods, study and presentation skills in forensic archaeology and anthropology and has some overlap with the Research and Study Skills in Archaeological Science module. Other lectures are specific to the forensic element of the module including the ethics and legislative requirements of forensic archaeology, frameworks of standardisation of practice, specialist report writing and formulating forensic strategies.

Osteoprofiling studies normal anatomy and physiology of the skeleton so you will learn to recognise abnormal anatomy and become familiar with basic methods of analysis relevant for human and osteology. You will receive extensive practical experience in constructing an osteological profile.

Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology: Theory and Practice focuses on forensic archaeology and anthropology within a global humanitarian forensic context, including examples of genocide, disaster victim identification, and refugee crises. You will also develop practical skills in the laboratory and during a simulated 'mass grave' location and excavation exercise.

The Dissertation is an opportunity for you to carry out research and demonstrate research skills in a particular area of the course of your choice. Under the guidance of your assigned dissertation supervisor, you will familiarise yourself with published literature on a specific topic, develop a research design, collect data and draw conclusions. 

You will also choose one option module from the following:

  • Palaeopathology: Theory and Method
  • Isotopic and Biomolecular Archaeology
  • Forensic Genetics


During this one-year course you will learn through a varied and challenging mixture of lectures, seminars, hands-on practical classes and mock scenarios, that will involve you in a range of realistic forensic situations.

Field trips offer the opportunity to add to your growing knowledge of forensic practice while workshops and guest lectures will also be a key feature of the course.

In Term 1 you will take a module in osteoprofiling, taught through lectures and practical laboratory sessions and research skills in forensic archaeology and anthropology which includes lectures and seminars. For your second module of Term 2 you will choose either palaeopathology or isotope and biomolecular archaeology.

We ensure that throughout the course you will have the opportunity to work alongside research active staff and that you will be given opportunities to reflect and critique methods and practice.

These skills will be essential during Term 3, when you will be required to undertake the dissertation that will be a major piece of independent research.


Course assessment is rigorous and carried out through essays, exams and the evaluation of a portfolio of practical work. You will also be required to design, research and write a dissertation of up to 15,000 words. 

Academic staff will provide you with written and verbal feedback on an ongoing basis and when you are working alongside research staff, you will be required to analyse and critique research methods and practice – skills that will be essential when you come to the design and completion of your dissertation.

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

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,900 per year
EU students £26,500 per year
Island students £12,900 per year
International students £26,500 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £7,100 per year
EU students £14,600 per year
Island students £7,100 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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