• Class Number 6509
  • Term Code 3270
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Clare McFadden
    • Dr Clare McFadden
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 03/11/2022
  • Class End Date 16/12/2022
  • Census Date 02/12/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 25/11/2022
SELT Survey Results

This course is designed to explore a series of emerging and intensely debated issues or methodological approaches in core areas of biological anthropology. The content is variable - offering a variety of areas of research expertise in bioarchaeology, skeletal biology, palaeoanthropology, primatology, or evolution of human behaviour. Students in this course will take a critical approach to theory and/or methods employed in these areas.

One topic is taught over one academic session. The course provides flexible intensity of learning as a 6 unit course, and is delivered through low-intensity online learning built around an intensive class of 5 day duration. Students commence the course with 4-5 weeks of independent reading and research as preparation. Students then attend a 5 day intensive course on campus at the ANU. This intensive five day program is followed up with work on tasks and course assessments with online supervision at low intensity, for delivery and completion by the end of the session/semester. The content and topics will vary from course to course. One course will be offered per year (always either in S2 or the Spring session). Session topics are dependent on availability of faculty expertise. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. develop an understanding of skills and concepts in the thematic area of biological anthropology;
  2. critically analyse literature through evaluation of published research against alternative interpretations of data in the thematic area of biological anthropology;
  3. identify scientific problems and construct hypotheses in biological anthropology research;
  4. practise a technique/method applied to relevant data appropriate to a basic level of research training or professional practice in the thematic area of biological anthropology;
  5. reach a masters level of expertise allowing to design a small research project in which skills defined for the theme area of biological anthropology could be applied.

Research-Led Teaching

This course focuses on approaches to palaeodemography and palaeoepidemiology, using individual biological profiles and archaeological data to reconstruct past population dynamics and indicators of population health. The course will offer postgraduate students the opportunity to gain skills in developing research questions in palaeodemography and palaeoepidemiology; identifying and analysing suitable datasets; and interpreting the results through appropriate contextual frameworks. The course will show students how to integrate modern demographic and epidemiological methods into the study of past populations to gain greater insights into our deep past. 

Required Resources

There are no core readings for this class; a set of readings is suggested on a weekly basis.

The following titles are recommended

Chamberlain (2006) Demography in Archaeology. 

Hoppa and Vaupel (2002) Paleodemography: Age Distributions from Skeletal Samples. 

Waldron (2007) Palaeoepidemiology: The Measure of Disease in the Human Past. 

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Referencing in all your written assignments needs to follow the formatting of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, see more here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1096- 8644/homepage/ForAuthors.html#Structure 

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Morning lecture: Palaeodemography – Age at Death Distributions Afternoon lecture: Palaeodemography – Estimating Variables Part 1 Associated readings Getz (2020) The use of transition analysis in skeletal age estimation. Prince et al. (2008) A Bayesian Approach to Estimate Skeletal Age-at-Death Utilizing Dental Wear. McFadden and Oxenham (2018) The D0-14/D ratio: A new paleodemographic index and equation for estimating total fertility rates. Morning session: Run through age at death estimation method, report approach Afternoon session: Age at death estimation analysis
2 Morning lecture: Palaeodemography – Estimating Variables Part 2 Afternoon lecture: Major Challenges in Palaeodemography Associated readings McFadden and Oxenham (2019) The paleodemographic measure of maternal mortality and a multifaceted approach to maternal health. Wood et al. (1992) The Osteological Paradox: Problems of Inferring Prehistoric Health from Skeletal Samples. Morning session: Age at death estimation analysis Afternoon session: Age at death estimation analysis
3 Morning lecture: Major Questions in Palaeodemography Afternoon lecture: Introduction to Palaeoepidemiology Associated readings DiNapoli et al. (2021) Approximate Bayesian Computation of radiocarbon and paleoenvironmental record shows population resilience on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). McFadden et al. (2018) Detection of temporospatially localized growth in ancient Southeast Asia using human skeletal remains . Brickley (2018) Cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis: A biological approach to diagnosis. Morning session: Age at death estimation analysis Afternoon session: Epidemiology analysis
4 Morning lecture: Methods in Palaeoepidemiology Afternoon lecture: Major Questions in Palaeoepidemiology Associated readings Rothschild et al. (2020) Cribra orbitalia is a vascular phenomenon unrelated to marrow hyperplasia or anemia: Paradigm shift for cribra orbitalia. Ventades et al. (2018) A recording form for differential diagnosis of arthropathies. Marklein and Crews (2017) Frail or hale: Skeletal frailty indices in Medieval London skeletons. Morning session: Epidemiology analysis Afternoon session: Epidemiology analysis
5 Morning lecture: Bringing Palaeoepidemiology into Modern Contexts Afternoon lecture: Critically Engaging with Palaeodemographic and Palaeoepidemiological Research Associated readings David and Zimmermann (2010) Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between? Faltas (2011) Cancer is an ancient disease: the case for better palaeoepidemiological and molecular studies. Stearns (2012) Evolutionary medicine: its scope, interest and potential. Morning session: Epidemiology analysis Afternoon session: Presentations

Tutorial Registration

No enrolment required as this is an intensive delivery. Students must attend all five days, 9am-5pm, either in person or online.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Peer-review essay (conceptual assessment) 45 % 25/11/2022 1, 2
Peer-review presentation (conceptual and factual assessment) 10 % 09/12/2022 1, 2
Lab report (methodological assessment) 45 % 18/12/2022 1, 2, 3, 4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation is not mandatory but is strongly recommended. It will be extremely challenging to complete the assessments without participating in the intensive week.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 45 %
Due Date: 25/11/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2

Peer-review essay (conceptual assessment)

You will be asked to critically analyse and engage with one of the provided topics in palaeodemography and palaeoepidemiology. The essay will be a standard essay format. You are expected to demonstrate your preparation reading for this course through this essay by outlining the background to the topic, describing issues or interests in relation to the topic, and concluding with remarks on the current status of literature on the topic. More details and instructions will be distributed separately in due course.

Word limit: 3000 words

Value: 45%

Presentation requirements: see separate handout.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 09/12/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2

Peer-review presentation (conceptual and factual assessment)

You will present the preliminary details of your palaeodemographic or palaeoepidemiological analysis in this course. You will outline existing research on the topic, how your analysis fits within the existing research, and why the analysis is important or beneficial to palaeodemography/palaeoepidemiology. You should note limitations of your project and the anticipated outcomes [what do you think your project will find? What is the context of these findings (e.g., are they important for our understanding of age as a degenerative process, methods for estimating age, population variation, etc.)].

Time: TBC

Value: 10%

Presentation requirements: see separate handout.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 45 %
Due Date: 18/12/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4

Lab report (methodological assessment)

By writing a lab report you will learn how to produce a scientifically rigorous document giving you a platform to construct research aims and hypotheses, evaluate and describe a bioarchaeological technique, present, evaluate and discuss data in a broader bioarchaeological context. Much of the work for this will be completed in class during the intensive face-to-face week. You will need to finalise and polish the report after the intensive.

Word limit: 3000 words (+/- 10%)

Value: 45%

Presentation requirements: Structure must follow a lab report format – see separate handout. 

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Clare McFadden

Research Interests

Palaeodemography; palaeoepidemiology; historical demography and epidemiology; biocultural approaches to past health

Dr Clare McFadden

By Appointment
By Appointment
Dr Clare McFadden

Research Interests

Dr Clare McFadden

By Appointment
By Appointment

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