Human Evolution: The global record of human evolution from seven million - twelve thousand years ago. You'll explore the many lines of evidence which contribute to our understanding of this period including archaeological material, fossil anatomy, geochronology, landscape change and ancient DNA. There will be much emphasis the Old World, although the global dispersal of humans will also be covered. You'll develop a critical understanding of theories underpinning the study of human evolution, including evolutionary theory, adaptive ecological strategies and behavioural and biological change. The overarching aim is for you to achieve a deep understanding of the interdisciplinary basis of human evolution, and to develop the skills for navigating expanding and rapidly changing field independently. Unit delivery will be aimed at developing expertise in analytical and critical thinking, and confidence in communication and presentation.
Human Functional Anatomy: Lectures and laboratory practicals, the use of teaching casts and skeletal material, anatomical drawing hand-outs and anatomy reference sources will develop your osteological and general study skills. Accessing the laboratory outside teaching hours gives you the opportunity to self-direct your learning and to study materials in your own time. The aim of this unit is to enable you to gain detailed knowledge of human musculoskeletal anatomy that emphasises a functional approach to identifying and describing human remains, intact and fragmented, recovered from archaeological and forensic contexts. It provides you with proficiency in distinguishing morphological variation and produces a working knowledge of human functional anatomy, including considering developmental processes in the human skeleton and understanding biomechanical approaches to human movement.
Primate Behaviour & Ecology: Providing an understanding of how primate behaviour can be interpreted from an evolutionary viewpoint, and how human and non-human primates’ behavioural strategies are adapted to the environment (social and ecological) in which they live, the unit will stimulate discussion and the critical analysis of theories by a combination of lectures, directed reading, and discussion sessions, which will involve the analysis of scientific articles.
Principles & Methods in Zooarchaeology: This unit will provide you with a solid basis in the principles of identification of mammals, birds and fish and the recording and analytical methods currently employed in the study of animal bones from archaeological sites. It will also provide you with an appreciation of how animal bone studies are integrated with other aspects of archaeology. You will learn mainly through practical workshops, in which you will further your familiarity with zooarchaeological assemblages and techniques, through the handling of material and by practical exercises based on that material. Case studies will explore how investigations of faunal remains can be integrated within the wider discipline of archaeology.
Research Project: Develop your expertise in research methods, data collection, analysis, interpretation and synthesis and explore in detail core aspects of your subject area, with a view to generating new practical or theoretical insights. You will develop methodological, research, presentation skills and advanced communication skills by producing an extensive dissertation or report on your research.
You'll choose one of the following units:
Principles & Methods in Human Osteology: This unit provides an introduction to the basic principles of analysis and interpretation involved in the study of skeletal remains of modern humans from archaeological and forensic contexts and covers the principles and application of biological profiling from the skeleton. Characteristics covered include age-at death, biological sex, stature, metric and non-metric variation. The unit will also provide a general introduction to skeletal anatomy, the sub-adult skeleton, the dentition and differences between human and non-human animal bone. The unit functions as a self-contained introduction to human osteology at level M which can either stand alone, or form the foundation for more advanced study of human skeletal remains.
Techniques of Archaeological Recovery & Recording: Taking part in field work exercises and practical demonstrations gives you grounding in the methods involved in archaeological field recording and recovery. You'll learn about the principles of location, survey, excavation and the planning and recording of archaeological finds and features. You'll also learn about planning field projects, which covers health & safety and budgeting.
And one of the following:
Archaeology of Human Remains:Human remains, whether preserved as skeletons or otherwise, contain complex messages about the biological individual and social persona they represent, as well as the population or community they belong to. Bioarchaeology endeavours to decipher this information and to interpret it against the backdrop of ambient social, cultural, political and economic circumstances. This unit offers the means to do this by providing a contextualized understanding of human remains through a combined appreciation of the osteological and archaeological evidence, and natural science applications. It puts theoretical knowledge into hands-on experiential learning to allow for the in-depth study of major aspects of the human life course at individual and population levels. Themes include demography, diet, health and disease, activity, mobility, genetics and mortuary behaviour, complemented by fundamental considerations of taphonomy and degradation.
Bodies of Evidence - Skeletal Changes Before & After Death: This unit focuses on skeletonised remains and interpreting material from forensic contexts, although the content will also be relevant to archaeological material and some consideration will be given to soft tissue remains. The unit will consider changes that take place during an individual’s life and after death that produce variations in the nature and appearance of the skeleton. Variation sources during life include disease processes and injuries affecting bone, whilst post-mortem events include the decomposition processes, changes in the burial environment and alteration by burning. You'll also consider the ways skeletal samples can be investigated statistically at the level of populations. Professional frameworks relating to forensic casework and procedures and methods of report writing will also be taught.
Humans, Animals & Diet: Gain a detailed understanding of the history of animal exploitation for food and the inter-relationships between humans and animals in different periods and regions. This unit aims to provide you with knowledge of the major developments in animal exploitation in Britain. A number of central themes in zooarchaeological studies will be explored that can be applied to the study of human diets in European, Asian and New World contexts. You will also be developing critical awareness of the range of cultural attitudes towards animals, in different human societies.
Please note that option units require minimum numbers to run and may change from year to year.
Programme specifications provide definitive records of the university's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.
Download the programme specification for MSc Biological Anthropology
Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.
Voluntary placements are available on this course.
Employment prospects are now truly international and BU encourages students to consider an international work placement or volunteering experience during their degree. One way could be through the EU-funded Erasmus mobility programme which supports placements and study exchanges in Europe. Students can also participate in international placements outside of Europe. There are opportunities to engage with summer schools and volunteering projects. These experiences help students to enhance their global employability skills.
Background and experience
For Biological Anthropology we are looking for applicants who:
- Have enthusiasm to learn about a wide range of issues relating to the study of human behaviour, origins and physical variation
- Are keen on practical learning in a laboratory environment
- Are keen to develop critical thinking skills and apply these to the study of human populations principally through the study of human skeletal remains
- Can demonstrate an academic interest and ability in sciences relevant to Biological Anthropology by having suitable prior experience and/or qualifications – possibly including archaeology, and/or forensic science
- Can demonstrate an existing interest in the study of human remains by having previous experience of the study of human osteology, anatomy or human evolution.
We are looking for students who are keen to develop their intellectual skills by gaining a sound understanding of a range of areas of study within Biological Anthropology. We particularly encourage applications from people who have an enthusiasm for developing critical thinking and observational skills and who would like to develop better understanding of the human species through the study of human remains. Such skills and knowledge may then form a basis for further postgraduate study. Students on this degree course will typically have backgrounds in Archaeology, Anatomy, or Forensic Science.
Applicants are not normally required to attend an interview but are encouraged to arrange an appointment at one the postgraduate open days in order to make sure the course selected is right for them.
For more information, take a look at our post graduate how to apply pages.
Full entry requirements
The normal requirements for embarking upon a postgraduate taught degree are:
- Possession of 2:2 degree or equivalent
- For post-experience and professional qualifications, there may be additional entry requirements set by the association or institute that ultimately administers the qualification in question. The qualification description on the course information pages should tell you what these are but please get in touch with the AskBU Enquiry Service if you are in doubt.
If you lack the formal academic qualifications needed to enter a postgraduate or post-experience degree, there are several alternative routes to follow - some based on experience. Contact the AskBU Enquiry Service for more information.
International entry requirements
If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:
- IELTS (academic) 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each component, or equivalent.
View further information about our English language requirements.
A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.
You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.
Most of our MSc Biological Anthropology graduates choose to embark on a career in teaching or future research, however there are many and varied professional opportunities for biological anthropologists.
As an MSc Biological Anthropology graduate, you will be prepared to undertake roles such as:
- Forensic anthropologist
- Primate behavioural ecology/conservation manager
- Professional osteoarchaeologist
- Forensic consultant
- Human palaeontologist.
Industries worked in
- Law enforcement
- Academic research.
If you want to continue your studies after achieving your Master's, you can look into our range of doctoral programmes.
Meet our staff
Dr Karina Gerdau-Radonic is the programme leader. Karina and her colleague Andrew Ford have been awarded a grant by the Japanese space agency (JAXA) to evaluate L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data for archaeological prospection in the arid region surrounding the Pachacámac Archaeological Complex near Lima, Peru, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The region has had human occupation for over 10 000 years and the area and archaeological sites are currently under threat of urban expansion. Identification of important sites through cross referencing of remote sensing and field surveys will be used as a negotiating tool with local governments so they engage with urban planning, and for archaeological work to be carried out before the sites disappear under the urban sprawl. The team will use the data collected by the Phased Array L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR-2) aboard the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 (ALOS-2). PALSAR-2 uses a wavelength capable of penetrating dry sand, whilst also being the only such sensor capable of fine-resolution imaging, using a "Spotlight mode", thus providing a unique capability for archaeologists. Besides simple imaging, interferometry (InSAR) in Spotlight mode will also be evaluated to estimate the depths of any sub-surface features. Results from PALSAR-2 will be compared to existing mapping and forthcoming excavations in the field.
Find out more about Karina's colleagues in the Department of Archaeology, Anthropology & Forensic Science, and register now to attend an open day to meet them.