The Anthropology of Human Remains

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for ANTHRO 235.


Human remains reflect the lives of the dead as well as the lives of those who buried them. Often they are the most gripping evidence from the past (think of mummies, bog bodies and so on). In this course you will be introduced to the various ways in which we study the dead and how we relate the study of human remains to the context in which they are found. The course will cover three areas: the interpretation of mortuary practices, the interpretation of past lives from human remains and the practice of burial archaeology in the southern hemisphere. We explicitly focus on the cross-over between biological anthropology and archaeology, so you will be introduced to the relevance of the two subdisciplines for each other. In addition we will discuss archaeological practice, particularly in relation to this part of the world.

In lectures we will use examples from across the world to introduce you to the area of bioarchaeology of human remains. We will demonstrate how different research questions and theoretical perspectives lead to different outcomes and give you a chance in the course of labs to do your own original analysis of a burial monument. In labs, which are based around a series of exercises, we will work towards identifying how to analyse human remains in an archaeological context and what is best practice in relation to human remains. Ultimately we want you to understand the limitations and promises of the analysis of human remains.

This means there are more general skills we will focus upon which will help in future employment. In particular the lectures and labs will be focused upon developing your ability to undertake independent research, develop some practical skills for cultural resource management and archaeology, enhance communication skills in both oral and written format and developing an awareness of ethical issues and the multiple responsibilities of a researcher.

This course is offered concurrently at  Stage 2 and Stage 3 levels (ANTHRO 367) and is taught  every second year. 

Availability 2020

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Associate Professor Judith Littleton


ANTHRO 235: 15 points


15 points in Anthropology or 60 points passed