Skip to main content

Aging Through the Ages: Bioarchaeology and the People of the Past

This course is currently unavailable for booking

There are currently no upcoming dates available for this course. Be the first to know when new dates are announced by joining the mailing list.

An individual’s age impacts how they are perceived by their culture.

This module will examine the influence of age in past societies, from infancy to getting old.

Introducing the methods used by bioarchaeologists and using examples from Britain, Europe, and North America, we will explore the three main types of age: chronological, biological and social, before discussing similarities and differences in rites of passage and social responsibilities that are often tied to age.

We will examine how these intersect with other personal identities, including sex and wealth.

You will be introduced to methods such as age estimation from bones and teeth, analysis of diet and geography, and signs of disease and trauma in human skeletons.

We will conclude with a comparison to modern cultures from around the world.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through nine in-person sessions.

These sessions will consist of a lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  • Introduction and course overview
  • Studying human populations and age estimation methods
  • Infancy
  • Readings in bioarchaeology: coursework workshop
  • Childhood
  • Puberty
  • Young Adults
  • Older Adults
  • Age Today

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short critical review
  • a 1000-word essay.

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • Argawal, S and Glencross, B. (2011) Social Bioarchaeology. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Devlin, Z and Graham, E-J. (2015) Death embodied. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Larsen, C. S. (1998) Bioarchaeology: Interpreting Behavior from the Human Skeleton. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Parker-Pearson, M. P. (1999) The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Sutton, Gloucester.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.