BA, MA, PhD
- Director of Studies (Lent 2020)
- Fellow in Category D
- Lecturer in the Evolution of Health, Diet and Disease, Department of Archaeology
I gained my BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cambridge, and MA in Osteoarchaeology from the University of Southampton. Following employment in medical research and commercial archaeology, I completed my PhD in Biological Anthropology under the supervision of Dr Jay Stock (Cambridge) and Professor Jonathan Wells (UCL). My thesis investigated adaptation to varying social and natural environmental conditions in past and present Andean populations.
Subsequently, I held a Junior Research Fellowship at Newnham College, Cambridge, and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University, where I was also Lecturer in Biological Anthropology. I returned to the Department of Archaeology, and Newnham College, as a Lecturer in January 2019.
My research centres on understanding how past and present variation in human health, growth and morphology is influenced by evolutionary processes (e.g., adaptation, neutral variation, plasticity) and interactions with the natural and social environments. I combine human bioarchaeology with human biology and palaeoanthropology, and previous and current projects include work in South America, South Asia and Europe.
My recent research has been investigating the evolutionary origins of low lean tissue (organ and muscle mass) among contemporary South Asians. Low lean mass is implicated in the elevated risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases among South Asians, but the origins of low lean mass is unknown. We have been using clinical imaging from contemporary populations to investigate the relationship between lean mass and skeletal dimensions, and then applying these findings to track patterns of lean mass variation using the South Asian skeletal record from the last 11,000 years. This project involves collaborations with Dr Veena Mushrif (Deccan College Research and Post Graduate Institute, Pune, India); Dr Jay Stock (Cambridge); Professor Jonathan Wells (UCL); Dr Sanjay Kinra (APCAPS [apcaps.lshtm.ac.uk], London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine); and Dr Bharati Kulkarni (National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India).
Since 2016 I have also been the paleoanthropologist at renewed excavations at Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan. Shanidar Cave is one of the most famous Neanderthal sites, yielding the remains of 10 men, women and children in excavations led by Ralph Solecki between 1951 and 1960. The new project, led by Professor Graeme Barker, is using modern archaeological science and techniques to refine our understanding of the chronology and stratigraphy of Solecki’s original excavations, and to provide new insight into behaviour during the Palaeolithic. This has included the exciting discovery of significant new Neanderthal remains.
The Old St Bernard’s Hospital Project, which I co-direct Dr Kevin Lane (CONICET, Universidad de Buenos Aires) and Professor Clive Finlayson (The Gibraltar Museum and University of Gibraltar), investigates health, diet and migration among skeletons from a 16th-17th century mariner’s hospital in Gibraltar. Due to its date and location on major shipping routes, the Hospital collection has enormous potential to shed new light on disease and migration at a time when trade and human movements first became truly global. The project is strongly interdisciplinary, incorporating historians, archaeologists, human osteologists, and analyses of stable light isotopes and ancient human and pathogen DNA.