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Advanced Research Methods in Mortuary Archaeology


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMSc Archaeology programme or equivalent.


The focus of this course is threefold. Firstly, the course emphasises the importance of understanding the suite of taphonomic processes that have an impact on the structure of a grave from the moment of deposition until the time of excavation.
Secondly, the effect of preservation on the recovery and analysis of human remains are covered. Lastly, the importance of cultural understandings of funerary practices needed to situate osteological data within a broader archaeological and historical context is explored.

The RMSc/RMA students are participating in the same lectures, but their assignments will have a different focus involving enhanced depth and critical review with additional minimum requirements for the number of referenced sources. Written assignments will involve researching a topic to achieve comprehension of its significance to the field as a whole, utilizing critical thinking skills and formulating directions for innovative new research.

Course objectives

  • Understanding of general taphonomic processes within the context of a grave;

  • Ability to apply these principles to case studies from recent excavations;

  • Understanding of how to reconstruct burial practices;

  • Knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of the interpretation of mortuary practices of past societies;

  • Knowledge of research methods used to study different types of mortuary practices;

  • Ability to critically review (both written and verbally) the significance of current research within the field as a whole;

  • Ability to formulate new and innovative directions of research.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture;

  • Laboratory exercises.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lecture (1 ec);

  • 10 hours of laboratory assignments and preparation presentation (0,5 ec);

  • 210 pages of literature (1,5 ec);

  • Weekly writing assignments of each max. 250 words) (1 ec);

  • Final essay (1,800 words) (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Class participation (10%);

  • Five weekly assignments (15%);

  • Laboratory assignment (20%);

  • Presentation (25%);

  • Final essay (30%).

Compensation between the individual grades is allowed (according to OER/Course and Examination Regulations), except for the essay, which should be a pass (>5.5).
A retake is only possible for the final essay, and only if all requirements have been met.

The date for the final essay can be found in the RMA and RMSc examination schedule.
For other deadlines please review the course syllabus.

Reading list

Literature will be made available through BlackBoard by the instructor.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. R. (Rachel) Schats.


Compulsory attendance.