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Written in Bone: An Introduction to Forensic and Bio-archaeology

Learn to use human skeletal analysis to read and uncover the story behind human remains, using three sites from around the world.

3,900 enrolled on this course

Remains of a human skull located in Western Queensland
  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Discover what’s written in the bones of human skeletal remains

A human skeleton is uncovered. Who was this person? What is their story?

Through human skeletal analysis, we are able to read the story behind a skeleton and tell the sex, age and ethnicity of the person who passed away.

On this course, you’ll gain an introduction to some of the key techniques and approaches that are used in human skeletal analysis.

You’ll use case studies to uncover their stories and explore some of the ethical issues that surround the analysis of human remains.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds The discovery of human remains is the opening chapter of a detailed investigation, an investigation involving recovery, analysis, and research. Who were these people? What story is told by their skeletal remains? What clues are buried with them? Join us in an investigation of these stories. How do we analyse the evidence, investigate the context, and engage with different cultures to uncover these stories? Welcome to Griffith University, home to ARCHE, the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution. Our research team at Griffith conducts world-class studies in biological archaeology.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds ARCHE and the School of Environment and Science are giving you the opportunity to be part of a two-week investigation to answer this question.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds Meet the lead educators conducting our investigation. Hello, my name’s Michael Westaway. I’m Carney Matheson. My name’s Shaun Adams. See the processes that we use to analyse the evidence. Explore three sites where human remains were discovered. And join us in a discussion of the stories that we uncover.

What topics will you cover?

  • Principles and tools of forensic and biological archaeology
  • Legislative requirements for the discovery of human skeletal remains
  • Using craniometrics, isotopes, DNA and Carbon 14 to read human skeletal remains
  • Sensitivities involved in working with human skeletal remains
  • Role of Indigenous partnerships in the archaeological recovery of human skeletal remains
  • Explore three sites from around the world

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the basic principles of four techniques used to analyse human skeletal remains
  • Identify legislative requirements governing the discovery of human remains
  • Discuss the ethics of working with human remains
  • Explain the importance of context to the forensic or archaeological recovery of human remains
  • Reflect upon the role of technology, context and culture in reading the stories of human skeletal remains

Who is the course for?

This course would suit anyone interested in forensic archaeology or anthropology. It may be of particular interest to students of archaeology, and those involved in police work, or with investigating human remains.

Who will you learn with?

I am Director of the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University. Leader in the field of ESR dating, with extensive experience in U-series, radiocarbon and luminescence dating.

I am an applied analytical scientist and my research focuses on biomolecular taphonomy, molecular paleopathology, biomedical science, archaeological science and forensic science.

I am an archaeologist specialising in Australian Indigenous prehistoric sites. I spend much of my time conducting remote fieldwork in north QLD. I specialise in isotopes, GIS and identifying bones.

Who developed the course?

Griffith University

Griffith University was created to be a different kind of university—challenging conventions, responding to trends and pioneering solutions through innovative teaching and research.

  • Established

  • Location

    Queensland, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 210Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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