Humans, Animals and Disease

Module code: AR7073

In this module you’ll be examining skeletons to decipher whether or not disease has been present. You’ll be differentiating between pathology and pseudo-pathology to identify common diseases encountered in animal and human skeletons.

You’ll delve into the complexities of disease identification in skeletonised human and animal remains, to understand the relationship between health, disease and the environment. This will help you to evaluate how the study of human and animal disease can build upon our understanding of past societies. Practical workshops will enable students to identify frequently encountered skeletal pathologies in humans and animals, describe lesions, undertake qualitative and quantitative analysis, and complete a differential diagnosis. Seminars will focus attention on the cause, spread and significance of particular diseases and their effect on human society. This module aims to provide a thorough understanding of:

  • Bone biology
  • Recording methods in palaeopathology
  • Common types of pathology encountered in archaeological material (congenital conditions, trauma, joint disease, infection/inflammation, metabolic/endocrine diseases, neoplasia, dental disease)
  • Issues associated with the interpretation of palaeopathology

Upon successful completion of this module, you should be able to:

  • Distinguish between pathology and pseudo-pathology
  • Identify common diseases present in human and animal skeletal remains
  • Appropriately record pathological conditions in human and animal skeletons
  • Understand the complexities of disease identification in skeletonised human and animal remains
  • Understand the relationships between health, disease and environment
  • Understand the implications of the study of human and animal disease in informing upon past societies


  • 11 hours of lectures
  • 11 hours of seminars
  • 11 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 267 hours of guided independent study


  • Practical tests (40%)
  • Essay, 4,000 words (60%)