Our List of Graduate Schools in Bioarchaeology

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What’s in a Name

Bioarchaeology is the study of human and animal skeletal remains. The term, bioarchaeology, was first coined by Grahame Clark at a site in 1972 where scientists were examining animal remains, also known as zooarchaeology. Redefined by Dr. Jane Buikstra in 1977, most Americans now understand it based on her definition. Graduate programs for those working towards careers in osteoarchaeology and palaeo-archaeology cover the same subject matter as programs using the term bioarchaeology.

Graduate Schools

Graduate schools differ not only in what they offer students in the way of academics but also in extra-curricular opportunities and cost. Many graduate schools only award terminal degrees. Students wishing to obtain a master’s degree in bioarchaeology will find it more difficult than those working towards a doctorate will.

Arizona State University is one of the leading schools for obtaining a Ph.D. in Anthropology with a “cross-cutting program” in bioarchaeology. The School of Human Evolution and Change, which houses the archaeological program, also oversees the Center for Bioarchaeological Research. The center enables students to do research under the guidance of top educators in the field. Courses offered include forensic anthropology, primate palaeobiology, ethnoarchaeology, as well as exhibition planning and design. Tuition for non-residents for Fall 2011 is $1,146 per credit hour.

Harvard University has a world-renowned archaeology department. Like many universities, Harvard offers only a doctoral degree in bioarchaeology. Students accepted into the program at Harvard, however, will study and research with some of the leading scholars in the world. Full tuition for Fall 2011 for Ph. D. candidates is $34,976 for the first two years with reduced tuition of $9,094 for the last two years. Graduate coursework includes required archaeological studies as well as a number of other classes including economic archaeology, materials in ancient societies, and psychological anthropology.

The University of Western Ontario awards both master’s and doctoral degrees in bioarchaeology. Studies at Western include mummy studies, paleogenetics and skeletal biology. Students will be introduced to studies that incorporate environmental and cultural issues as well. Students taking the master’s program are expected to finish in two years. Doctoral students are expected to finish their degree in four years. The bioarchaeological stream of study includes research in textile analysis, human evolutions and mummy studies.

At the University of Oxford, students are able to study molecular bioarchaeology. This master’s degree program provides students with research into the connection between ancient DNA and environmental change, migration and genetic origins. This is a one year program.

Students studying for a master’s or doctoral in bioarchaeology degree at Cambridge University will conduct research in the George Pitt-Rivers Laboratory for Bioarchaeology. However, research on this topic focuses heavily on early plant life. In order to study skeletal remains, students will want to apply to the zooarchaeology program where they will study at the Grahame Clark Research Center.

Fees at both Oxford and Cambridge for British and European students differ greatly from overseas students. Overseas students should expect tuition fees to be approximately £48,000 per year (approximately $79,280 US). Both universities advise students to contact their departments for additional fees as well as for tuition changes.


All colleges have their own distinct requirements. Students are advised to read carefully pre-requisites, application forms and other important information before applying. Students might find bioarchaeology listed under the Archaeology Department, the Anthropology Department or both. Some graduate schools in bioarchaeology use the other terms (zooarchaeology, palaeo-archaeology or osteoarchaeology), which means they may need to search all those terms at their first choice school.

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