Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Stefano Benazzi

  • Credits 6

  • SSD BIO/08

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History, preservation and enhancement of artistic and archaeological heritage and landscape (cod. 9218)

  • Course Timetable from Jan 31, 2024 to Mar 01, 2024


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Life on land

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide the knowledge and technical-scientific methodologies necessary for the reconstruction of the anthropological characteristics, living conditions and health of individuals and past populations through the study of human remains retrieved from archaeological excavations. The student is able to recognize and document human bone findings from archaeological excavations, as well as to their classification, the identification of markers related to functional stress, traumatic events, pathologies, and use all the data to come to an historical, social, demographic, environmental and palaeonutritional overview.

Course contents

The course is divided into two parts: a first part dealing with the general principles about the types of osteoarchaeological materials, conditions and techniques of excavation and recovery of the remains; a second part dealing with the technical and methodological tools needed to study human remains, and to collect and analyse data, along with experimental lab activities. 1) Osteoarchaeological remains: skeletal specimens; types of graves and burials; inhumation graves; incineration remains; cremation methods; elements of skeletal taphonomy and archaeology of death; techniques of excavation and recovery of materials; in situ observations and measurements; filling of osteoarchaeological forms; osteological restoration techniques. 2) Elements of skeletal biology: morphology and osteometry; teeth and development of the dental apparatus; macro- and micromorphological signs of age and estimation of age-at-death; sexual dimorphism and sex estimation; palaeodemography; identification and recording of anomalies, pathological and traumatic lesions; skeletal and dental indicators of environmental, biomechanical and nutritional stress; paleodiet reconstruction; general principles of virtual osteology and osteometry by means of digital 3D models; reconstruction of the physical and demographic characteristics and the lifestyle and subsistence models of ancient populations by means of biostatistical methods.


- Slides of the lessons

- A scientific article on a topic of the course chosen by the student

- S. Minozzi, A. Canci: Archeologia dei resti umani. Dallo scavo al laboratorio. Carocci ed., Roma, 2015.


Nikita E (2017). Osteoarchaeology: A Guide to the Macroscopic Study of Human Skeletal Remains. Elsevier Science Publishing Co Inc.

Eline M. J. Schotsmans, Nicholas Márquez‐Grant, Shari L. Forbes (editors, 2017). Taphonomy of Human Remains: Forensic Analysis of the Dead and the Depositional Environment. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

F. Mallegni, B. Lippi (a cura di): Non omnis moriar. CISU, Roma, 2009.

M.Y. Iscan and K.A.R. Kennedy (Eds): Reconstruction of Life from the Skeleton. Alan R. Liss, Inc., New York, 1989.

A. Stirland: Human Bones in Archeology. Shire Publications, Aylesbury, 1999.

D.H. Ubelaker: Human Skeletal Remains: Excavation, Analysis, Interpretation. Taraxacum, Washington, 1999.

T.D. White and A.F. Pieter: Human Osteology, Academic Press, San Diego, 2000.

Teaching methods

The course consists of frontal lectures related to the topics of the programme that can be supplemented by seminars on specific topics. During the course PowerPoint presentations will be used, which will be supplied to the students by means of dedicated online platforms. Finally, students will have the opportunity to undertake practical laboratory activities, involving the application of osteological techniques to materials retrieved from archaeological excavations, and the analysis and interpretation of data using suitable computer programs.

As concerns the teaching methods of this course unit, all students must attend Module 1, 2 [https://www.unibo.it/en/services-and-opportunities/health-and-assistance/health-and-safety/online-course-on-health-and-safety-in-study-and-internship-areas] online

Assessment methods

The final exam consists in an oral examination, which can be sustained starting from the first useful session on the calendar after the end of the lessons, concerning the topics indicated in the course program. During the exam, the student will have to deal with a topic of the course that she/he will have particularly deepened through the reading of a scientific article chosen by the student, which will obviously be followed by verification of preparation on other topics of the program. 

The final vote of the exam is based on the scientific and methodological knowledge of the student on the arguments discussed during the exam. Moreover, correct use of language, coupled with critical examination of the covered topics and interdisciplinary linkage, will be also evaluated.

Students not attending. The program of the course is the same for both students attending and not attending. Attendance of the lessons is highly recommended given the nature of the course, however, students who for valid reasons cannot attend are invited to contact the teacher, during reception hours, for the suggestion of the necessary supplementary texts.

Teaching tools

Power Point slides and human skeletal remains will be used for the lectures. About 8 hours of laboratory activity are planned, where special tools will be used for the study of human skeletal remains.

Students who are affected by learning disability (DSA) and in need of special strategies to compensate it, are kindly requested to contact the Teacher, in order to be referred to the colleagues in charge and get proper advice and instructions.

Office hours

See the website of Stefano Benazzi