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UCC Postgraduate courses

Archaeology - Human Osteoarchaeology

Course Fact File
Duration1 Year Full-time
Teaching ModeFull-time
NFQ LevelLevel 9
Closing Date19 May 2023
Start DateNot on offer 2024/2025 (Cyclical programme)

Course Outline

Our MA programme in Archaeology - Human Osteoarchaeology is designed to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of and practical training in human osteoarchaeology: the analysis of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts. We focus on the explanation of theoretical approaches and methods that can be used to address archaeological research questions using human skeletal data. 

Our teaching consists of both lectures and lab-based practical sessions and you will benefit from the fact that the Department of Archaeology has a long tradition of research and teaching in human osteoarchaeology where you will have the opportunity to engage in discussions with PhD students and staff, both in the classroom and outside. You will have an active role in shaping your own research project.

The taught MA in Human Osteoarchaeology is a one-year, full-time, vocationally-orientated course. This provides both a basis for application in the workplace and an opportunity for you to continue into PhD research.

For the first part of the year, you will be required to attend lectures, seminars, laboratory practicals, and field trips for seven modules. You will also choose a 20-25,000-word dissertation topic in consultation with staff. In the second part of the year, you will work on this dissertation for presentation in September.

On completion of the course, you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate differing theoretical approaches to the study of archaeological human remains;
  • understand and apply different methodological approaches to bioarchaeology;
  • understand the use of quantitative methods and their applicability to research questions in bioarchaeology;
  • correctly identify a range of pathological conditions that can be macroscopically identified on the human skeleton;
  • successfully complete an independent research project in bioarchaeology.


  • AR6001 Regional and Topographical Anatomy (10 Credits)
  • AR6009 Mortuary Theory (5 credits) 
  • AR6011 Biocultural Approaches to Human Remains (5 credits)
  • AR6014 Osteoarchaeology Laboratory (10 credits)
  • AR6031 Palaeopathology (10 Credits)
  • ST2001 Introduction to Biostatistics (5 Credits)
  • AR6003 Dissertation (45 credits)

Academic Programme Catalogue

See the Academic Programme Catalogue where you can search for the complete and up-to-date content for this course. Note that the modules for all courses are subject to change from year to year. For complete descriptions of individual modules, see the Book of Modules.

Course Practicalities

The bulk of teaching is carried out in Semester 1 when lectures take place each morning, typically from 10 am to 1 pm. There are also some afternoon classes. One course, Anatomy, is taught over both Semesters 1 and 2. All lectures, practicals and occasional field trips are mandatory. You are strongly encouraged to work in the Human Remains Laboratory outside class times throughout the year.

Taught modules are assessed by a variety of means including essays, in-class practical tests, seminar participation and presentations, laboratory notebooks, and MCQ examination. One course, Anatomy, has a written, end-of-year final exam. Fifty percent of the total grade for the course is awarded for independent research: the dissertation which is due in mid-September.

Dr Barra Ó Donnabhain (PhD, University of Chicago) is a bioarchaeologist who has been conducting archaeological research in Ireland and other parts of the world for over 25 years. His publications cover a wide temporal span as well as a broad range of themes but are characterized by an integrative approach in their reconstructions of past lives. This is exemplified by recent papers dealing with the political use of ritualized violence and the use of bone chemistry to characterize diet and identity in Viking Age Dublin. Ó Donnabhain has directed and collaborated in archaeological projects in a number of world areas.

Why Choose This Course

This is the only taught master’s course in human osteoarchaeology on offer in any of the universities in Ireland and since its inception in 2004, the course has trained many of those who work in the discipline in Ireland. A number of students have proceeded to PhD research and one has proceeded to graduate entry in medicine (GEM).

Placement or Study Abroad Information

There are opportunities to participate in mortuary excavations in Ireland. There are also limited opportunities for placement and study abroad. Previous placements have been in Peru (dissertation fieldwork) and Britain (museum studies courses at Bournemouth University).

Skills and Careers Information

This course provides you with a thorough grounding in the practical and theoretical aspects of the study of archaeological human remains. Graduates from the course will be in a prime position to continue their education at PhD level or to seek employment with research, educational or commercial organisations. Since its first intake in 2004, the course has had an excellent completion rate and the majority of graduates have gone on to either work or study in archaeology.


You will have a Second Class Honours Grade I (60%) in a primary honours degree (NFQ, Level 8) in archaeology.

Under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), candidates below this minimum mark who can demonstrate substantial professional experience in archaeology may also apply. It is possible for students who have a primary degree in a related subject to undertake a Higher Diploma in Arts (Archaeology). This qualification will enable prospective students to apply for this MA course — it will not, however, grant automatic entry to the MA. 

All applicants will be required to attend for interview.

For Applicants with Qualifications Completed Outside of Ireland

Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants

For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

  • In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.
  • Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.
English Language Requirements

Applicants who are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

Fees and Costs

Postgraduate EU and International Fees 2024/2025

See our Postgraduate EU and Non-EU (International) Fee Schedule for the latest information.


If your course requires a deposit, that figure will be deducted from your second-semester fee payment in January.

Fee payment 

Fees are payable in two equal instalments. First payment is at registration and the balance usually by the end of January.

How can I pay? 

See different options on our How Do I Pay My Fees? page.

Any questions? See the 'Contact Us' section on the Fees Office page.

How To Apply

1. Check dates

Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

2. Gather documents

Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

  • Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC.
  • Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply online

Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.

Additional Requirements (All Applicants)

Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

  • You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.

  • Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.

  • Please enter the names and email addresses of 2 referees. References are required from applicants who are not University College Cork graduates in the last two years. Please supply two references, one of which should be a previous employer or supervisor of studies. 

All suitably qualified applicants will be required to attend for interview.


Deferrals are not permitted on this programme.

Apply Now

For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact