Eleanor is a biomolecular archaeologist specialising in the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA. She has worked on numerous species and substrates across many time periods using both metagenomic and population genomic approaches. Through her work, Eleanor has obtained biomolecular-level archaeological information from neglected sample types and collections. She has previously worked on coprolites (or palaeofaeces) and other preserved faecal material, as well as a historic collection of human remains – the Thames Skull Collection – in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London.
Eleanor began her work as a postdoctoral researcher in 2023 as a member of the RATTUS project team and is currently using ancient DNA analysis to study archaeological rat specimens.
2023 – present PDRA in Archaeogenetics
Currently, Eleanor is working on the RATTUS project, a UKRI-funded project led by Dr David Orton. Black and brown rats are among the most globally successful commensal species and have played a significant role in European history. Despite this, there has been little investigation of these rodents through time. RATTUS aims to chart the intertwined histories of rats and humans across Europe from late prehistory to the 19th century. Eleanor’s focus will be on tracking the dispersal and movement of black and brown rats using evidence from ancient DNA analyses.
2017 – 2023 Archaeology PhD
Eleanor’s PhD research at the University of York (UoY) explored genetic and proteomic preservation within neglected and novel substrates. This work was funded by the AHRC (WRoCAH) and the Natural History Museum, London (NHM). Additionally, Eleanor was awarded a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant by the Wenner-Gren Foundation ($20,000) to investigate preserved faecal material including coprolites and faecal concretions. This work integrated various bioarchaeological techniques including ancient DNA analyses (metagenomics and population genomics), palaeoproteomics (metaproteomics, ZooMS, amino acid characterisation) zooarchaeology and radiocarbon dating. This work was supervised by Dr Nathan Wales (UoY), Dr Jessica Hendy (UoY), Prof Ian Barnes (NHM) and supported by Dr Camilla Speller (University of British Columbia).
2015 – 2016 Bioarchaeology MSc (Distinction)
During her MSc training at the University of York, Eleanor began to specialise in palaeogenomics. Her dissertation used metagenomic approaches to analyse pre-contact dog coprolites under the supervision of Dr Camilla Speller. This work was awarded the John Evans dissertation prize by the Association for Environmental Archaeology in 2016.
2012 – 2015 Bioarchaeology BSc (First class with honours)
Eleanor started her career by completing a BSc in Bioarchaeology at the University of York. For her dissertation she researched the use of experimental approaches and imaging technologies to assess the post-depositional contamination of archaeological teeth by environmental lead. This project was supervised by Dr Camilla Speller.
Eleanor’s research is set within the archaeological sciences, she primarily uses ancient DNA analyses to address questions relating to human-animal relationships, ancestry and palaeodiets. Eleanor’s past research has focused on neglected sample types or so-called “novel” substrates as sources of ancient biomolecules. Like many of her other research focuses, rats have been a neglected species in archaeology and especially in the archaeological sciences. In her current role, Eleanor will investigate the initial dispersal routes of black and brown rats into Europe, the extent of their population turnover and the implications of the spread of the Plague throughout medieval Europe.
RATTUS: Rats and the Archaeology of Trade, Urbanism, and Disease in Past European Societies
This UKRI-funded project, led by Dr David Orton, will investigate the links between European rat populations and human societies over the past c.2500 years
Ancient DNA group
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