Biomolecular Archaeology

2 credits

Syllabus, Master's level, 1BL809

Education cycle
Second cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Biology A1N
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G)
Finalised by
The Faculty Board of Science and Technology, 25 March 2021
Responsible department
Biology Education Centre

Entry requirements

A Bachelor's degree of at least 180 credits including 90 credits of archaeology, biology, ethnology, forensic science, earth sciences, history or cultural anthropology. Proficiency in English equivalent to the Swedish upper secondary course English 6.

Learning outcomes

The course gives a broad insight into cutting-edge biomolecular archaeology, methods and practices, providing user skills in ancient DNA, proteomics, residue analysis and isotope analysis of archaeological material.

After completion of the course, the student should be able to:

  • account for the potential and limitations of biomolecular archaeology,
  • account for reports of biomolecular data,
  • apply up-to-date criteria for selection and collection of samples,
  • apply best practices for publication of scientific data,
  • create projects within the area using the most suitable methodologies.


The course is organised into four themes:

  1. Ancient DNA: the analysis of genetic information including extracted ancient DNA from archaeological specimens and the analysis of modern DNA.
  2. Proteomics: the study of preserved proteins in bone and dentine, dental calculus, food residues, pottery, seeds, etc. Overview of applications of ancient protein research.
  3. Residue analysis: the extraction and characterisation of organic residues, such as lipids, proteins, and DNA, that survive on artefacts and in archaeological contexts.
  4. Isotope analysis: the use of stable isotope analysis of carbon, nitrogen, strontium, and oxygen in human and animal bone to reconstruct past diets, mobility, and climate.

An overview of laboratory practices and best practices in sample selection and collection will be outlined in each block.


Lectures and workshops facilitated by specialists in the field, an individual project and a group project.


Written report of the individual project and oral presentation of the group project (2 credits).

If there are special reasons, the examiner may make an exception from the specified examination method and allow an individual student to be examined in another way. Special reasons can e.g. be notified of special educational support from the university's coordinator for students with disabilities.