The extinct parareptilian clade of pareiasaurs was in the past often presented to constitute a morphocline from larger, less armoured forms to smaller, well armoured forms, indicating that the osteoderm cover became an increasingly prominent aspect in the post-cranial skeleton of these animals. Here, we describe microanatomical and microstructural aspects of osteoderms of the three pareiasaur taxa Bradysaurus, Pareiasaurus and Anthodon from the Permian of South Africa. A generalized mode of osteoderm formation, consistent with intramembraneous skeletogenesis, is hypothesized to be present in all pareiasaurs. Few characters are shared between pareiasaur dermal armour and turtle shell bones and osteoderms. Otherwise, there is strong evidence from microanatomy and histology (i.e. absence of structures that formed via metaplasia of dermal tissue) that indicates nonhomology between pareiasaur dermal armour and the armour of living eureptiles. Analysis with bone profiler revealed no clear connection between bone compactness and lifestyle in the amniote osteoderm sample.