Summer School in Osteoarchaeology and Paleopathology



The Summer School in Osteoarchaeology and Paleopathology is an academic program offered by the University of Pisa aimed at training students in anthropological and paleopathological laboratory methods. It is an outstanding opportunity for students to gain practical experience in bioarchaeological investigation by working side-by-side with leading researchers in the field.

The school is designed to provide all participants with an in-depth knowledge of cleaning, restoring and analyzing ancient human skeletal remains. Biological profile reconstruction is aimed at obtaining the greatest possible amount of information on the environment, lifestyle, and diseases that afflicted past populations.

The activities will be carried out at the Laboratory of Paleopathology (within the Medical School of Pisa). The Summer School will take place Monday through Friday over the course of 3 weeks, and will include some lectures (10-12 hours per week), in order to provide students with the basic knowledge of skeletal anatomy, physical anthropology and paleopathology necessary to approach osteological analyses.

Each student will have the opportunity to clean, restore and study skeletons from archaeological contexts. This will allow determining sex and age at death of the skeletons, recording entheseal changes, stress indicators, metric and non-metric traits, as well as identifying the pathologies most frequently observed in bone and teeth in order to reconstruct dietary habits, health status, patterns of subsistence and physical activity of the examined individuals.

The skeletal materials under examination include samples from Tuscan excavations dating back to the Medieval age. The activities will be completed under the supervision of Prof. Gino Fornaciari and the experienced staff of the Division of Paleopathology, directed by Prof. Valentina Giuffra.


The Summer School will take place from 8 to 26 June, 2020 (first session) and from 6 to 24 July, 2020 (second session).

Lectures will be given daily. Laboratory activities on human skeletal remains will be carried out daily as well, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, with an hour lunch break.

Students are expected to complete tasks timely and accurately, and to participate in all the activities of the Summer School, and absence is only allowed for personal health reasons. Unjustified absences will have a negative effect on the final grade and/or may lead to a student’s disciplinary dismissal from the program.

The official language of the Summer School is English and no knowledge of Italian is required.

Lectures and laboratory activities will not be held during weekends so as to give students the opportunity to enjoy their stay in Italy.


Session 1: 8-12 June, 2020 | Session 2: 6-10 July

During the first week of the Summer School students will be trained in

  • Procedures for preparing skeletal remains: each student will be provided with an
    adult skeleton to wash, restore and label;
  • Osteoarchaeology program: skeletal anatomy; bone and tooth identification;
    methods for sex and age determination;
  • Paleopathology program: traumatic lesions, non specific infections, metabolic


Session 1: 15-19 June, 2020 | Session 2: 13-17 July

During the second week the following aspects of the anthropological and
paleopathological study will be dealt with:

  • Osteoarchaeology program: metric data collection, with an emphasis on the
    proper technique to measure different skeletal elements; estimation of stature,
    indexes of proportion, robusticity, lateralization of limbs, and sexual
    dimorphism; identification and scoring methods for evaluating muscular
    attachments (ergonomy)
  • Paleopathology program: dentoalveolar diseases (dental caries, periodontal
    diseases, abscesses, etc.); congenital abnormalities; osteoarthritis and rheumatic
  • Visit to Museum of Anatomy of the University of Pisa


Session 1: 22-26 June, 2020 | Session 2: 20-24 July

The third week will be devoted to:

  • Osteoarchaeology program: study and analysis of subadult skeletons
    • Paleopathology program: indicators of stress (enamel hypoplasia, porotic
    hyperostosis, etc.); leprosy; tuberculosis; treponematosis; tumors
  • Travel to Badia Pozzeveri (Altopascio) to visit archaeological excavation with
    lecture: Computer models and applications for the management of
    archaeological and anthropological data
  • Conclusion of summer school: final interpretation of the results

Warning: the calendar might be modified depending on the speed of progression of the students.


  • 10 undergraduate credits (ECTS) through the University of Pisa
  • Certificate of participation from the University of Pisa
  • Certificate of participation from IRLABa




Housing is not provided by the Summer School; for information you can visit:


Participants in the Summer School will be provided with a “dining card” to access the students’ cafeteria for lunch and dinner. The meals at the students’ cafeteria of the University of Pisa cost â‚¬4.

An occasion to visit Italy

Pisa is located in a strategic position that allows you to reach the main cities and touristic localities easily. In half an hour it is possible to arrive in Lucca, a perfectly preserved medieval town surrounded by Renaissance walls. Florence, considered the birthplace of the Renaissance age, featuring countless monuments and art masterpieces, is only 1 hour away by train. The connection to Rome is direct with a 3-hour trip. By coach you can also reach the city of Volterra, located in the interior of Tuscany, with its many archeological monuments, and in 2 hours you can reach the pearls of Ligurian tourism, the Cinque Terre.




Scientific Supervisor

Gino Fornaciari, MD

Lecturers and laboratory staff


Cost: €1300

The cost includes Summer School activities (lectures, laboratory activities and instruments, staff costs), a “dining card” to access the students’ cafeteria for lunch and dinner, the visit to the archaeological excavation of Badia Pozzeveri (train ticket and lunch) and the visit to the Museum of Anatomy. International travel to Italy is not included in these fees and is the students’ sole responsibility. Payment withholding are not included.



The Summer School in Osteoarchaeology and Paleopathology is focused on the study of ancient human remains and welcomes students in anthropology, paleopathology and allied disciplines at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Admission is limited to 7 students.

The Summer School has no formal prerequisites; students will be fully trained for all the activities they experience. Students interested in applying to the Summer School must fill out and submit the online Application Form.

The application deadline is April 30, 2020.

However, applications are reviewed as soon as they are received and successful applicants accepted right away.


Curriculum vitae and/or reference letters (e-mails) may be requested. The staff reserves the right to verify any of the information reported in the application form and request supporting documentation (e.g., advising reports; references) in its sole discretion. Staff will make final decisions regarding enrolment.

In the application form students should indicate the preferred session. Acceptance will be communicated by e-mail. Upon acceptance, students will receive detailed instructions on how to submit required documentation and payments:

  • Proof of Insurance: students must have valid international health and injury insurance (made available through student travel centers) and must provide the insurance provider’s contact information as well as the policy number.
  • Release form: all students must read and accept the terms of the IRLAB Participation Agreement to participate in the program; a signed release form must be submitted prior to the start date of the Summer School.
  • Fee Payment: Students will be required to pay fees in full within 10 business days of receipt of the invoice sent by mail in case of admission. In case of student withdrawal, all fees minus a non-refundable deposit of 300 euro will be refunded until April 30, 2020. After April 30, 2020 fees will not be refunded. In the unlikely event of course cancellation, fees will be refunded in full (any applicable processing fees may not be refunded). Failure to provide all the above-mentioned documents and payment within the terms specified at the time of admission will constitute an automatic forfeiture of the student’s place in the summer school.

Download the brochure