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What is the career in the field of osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology?

When the mighty Mount Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago, it devoured everything in its path. The Roman city of Pompeii thriving on the fertile lands around the volcano turned to dust within seconds. Years later, when the buried city was rediscovered, it was found that most of the remains of the city and its residents, were surprisingly well-preserved. By studying the skeletons and other remains, archaeologists were able to put together a detailed account of what the ancient Romans looked like, their lifestyle and even their last moments.

That marked the beginning of the field of osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology, an emerging field of archaeology.

Human osteoarchaeology is the scientific study of human skeletons excavated from archaeological sites. It can tell us about the health, lifestyle, diet, mortality and the physique of people in the past.

Many universities in India and in the U.K. offer postgraduation in Human Osteoarchaeology. So if you are interested in unlocking the rich stories of the past, this could be a promising field.

How it works

Osteoarchaeologists study human remains, while Palaeopathology seeks to understand the nature and scope of past diseases. From studying the mummified remains of ancient Egyptians to assessing the impact of major diseases in history, osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology are crucial to every major archaeological investigation.


  • Archaeological contractor
  • Independent archaeological consultant
  • Local government
  • National heritage agencies
  • Private museums and charities
  • University archaeology departments

Required skills

  • A passion for history
  • Scientific knowledge
  • Patience, analytical and observational skills
  • Willingness to carry out field work
  • Communication skills

What to study?

To get started in the niche field of osteoarchaeology, a background in history is a must. In India, the subject is taught as part of the postgraduate course in Archaeology. However, universities in the U.K. offer specialization in Human Osteoarchaeology.


  • Deccan College, Pune and Allahabad University: Master of Arts (M.A.) in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology
  • Nagpur University: M.A. in Archaeology
  • University of Edinburgh and university of Sheffield, the U.K.: Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Human Osteoarchaeology.
  • Reading University, the U.K.: M.Sc. Professional Human Osteoarchaeology
  • Durham University, the U.K.: M.Sc. Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology


Picture Credit : Google

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