Osteoarchaeology

Osteoarchaeology labs in PalaeoHub students working human bones

The disciplines of osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology are the scientific analysis of human remains from archaeological contexts, investigating the demography, health, diet and lifeways of people from the past.

Malin Holst and Paola Ponce from BioArCh also work in the commercial sector, at York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, specialising in the excavation and analysis of human skeletal remains. As such, bioarchaeology at York University is consistently up-to-date and has access to recently excavated skeletal assemblages for research projects.

Previous research and news highlights include:

We curate large skeletal collections from different time periods, which are used for teaching and research projects. These populations offer the opportunity to study demography, stress, trauma and disease and cultural context.

Current skeletal collections include: 

  • ‌Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire - A population of 68 skeletons from a late 12th to late 13th century graveyard, including males, females and non-adults with a variety of pathology, much of it which is age-related
  • St James’s Abbey, Northampton - Nearly 300 skeletons from the medieval Augustinian Abbey of St James (1104-1538), some of which were of high status. Despite being monastic the assemblage also includes females and children.
  • Baldock, Hertfordshire – 60 inhumations and 60 cremation burials from a Roman roadside settlement
  • A range of skeletal assemblages - A number of smaller skeletal assemblages from a variety of sites and periods for teaching, including a number of non-adult skeletons and also bones with unusual pathology
  • A range of commercially excavated skeletal collections - Recently excavated and commercially analysed skeletal populations can be available for research purposes ranging from the Neolithic to the post-medieval period
  • Two specially designed laboratories at the PalaeoHub are used for research and teaching of human remains. We have a range of reference bone and dental casts, osteometric boards, calipers, microscopes, digital radiography facilities and cutting edge tools for morphometrics, imaging and functional simulation (the latter with HYMS).

Want to know more?

Contact Malin Holst or Paola Ponce, lecturers in osteoarchaeology.

Malin Holst

Malin has been working in commercial archaeology since 1987 and in osteoarchaeology and palaeopathology since 1996.  She is specialised in the macroscopic analysis of human remains from all periods.  Malin has been teaching at York since 2003 and is also the director of York Osteoarchaeology. Current projects include the analysis of medieval nunneries from northern England, research into stress in the urban poor from industrial cities of the post-medieval period and investigation into early medieval health and funerary ritual.

Paola Ponce

Paola has been teaching at York since 2018. She has 7 years of experience of working in the commercial sector and more than 19 years conducting collaborative and independent research on skeletal assemblages of European and Native American ancestry spanning temporally from Neolithic to post-medieval times. She is particularly interested in the palaeopathology of adult and non-adult individuals by means of applying lab-based and desk-based techniques to try to answer specific questions regarding their health and disease.