Don Brothwell
Emeritus Professor

Complete our quick survey to help us improve staff profile pages




PhD: Biological Archaeology, University of Stockholm

MA: Anthropology, Cambridge University

BSc Anthropology & Archaeology (with Geology & Zoology). University College of London, 


2009 - 2014 Director InterArChive

1999-  Emeritus Professor of Human Palaeoecology, University of York;

1993-1999 Professor of Human Palaeoecology, University of York;

2006-  Honorary Professor in the University of Durham

1974-1993 Senior Lecturer, then Reader, in Zooarchaeology, Department of Human Environment, Institute of Archaeology, University of London

1961-1974 Principal Scientific Officer and Head of Anthropology at the British Museum (Natural History)

1958-1961 Demonstrator, Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge 



My research has been broad based within Archaeology, and has included aspects of applied Geology and Soil Science. But my main leadership has been in Human Bioarchaeology and Zooarchaeology. I have also been concerned to promote research and study in the archaeological sciences in general, which I did by arranging three major edited volumes on the methods of “archaeological science” and other 14 monographs on the subject, but also founding the Journal of Archaeological Science and the science-based Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. 

In Human Bioarchaeology, I was early invited to contribute to Neanderthal studies and was also privileged to describe the 40,000 year old skull from Niah in Borneo (and later Bornean material with some of the earliest evidence of treponematosis). By numerous publications (over 200 between peer-reviewed journals and monographs) I greatly helped to ‘shape’ human skeletal studies internationally, and established the need for more research effort in the field of human palaeopathology.

In animal studies, I considered neglected topics such as New World dogs, zoonoses, the microevolution of house mice and Guinea pigs.

It has been my pleasure to investigate “comparative palaeopathology” and to newly establish the need to classify and evaluate disease history across species. This, and my other work, has stimulated interest internationally, and created new lines of research.

As an extension of my human burial studies I have been concerned with the detailed study of the totally neglected matrix surrounding bodies, which has much to reveal, both for archaeology and forensic investigations..

As well as being Professor if Human Palaeoecology at the University of York, I have also been awarded an Honorary Professorship at the University of Durham.


Bosnia and Kosovo forensic studies

  I was part of UN field teams, as specialist on human remains. Work was both field- and laboratory-based (single and mass burials). Burial conditions and body decomposition were very variable. This was a valuable opportunity for me to see that sampling procedure in relation to such burials could and should be greatly improved, and that initially we need research studies of the kind proposed here, to appreciate the full potential of a much improved sampling and analytical methodology. This could have relevance not only for international forensic investigations, but national police enquiries in relation to buried murder victims. 

Investigation on the Neolithic “Iceman”

I was part of a selected international team assembled to investigate all aspects of this unique find. Together with two colleagues, I undertook research on small samples from the intestines, teeth and hair. Of particular significance was research I undertook with Dr G. Grimes in Nuclear Physics at Oxford University, exploring proton induced x-ray emission analysis of hair (of the “Iceman” and associated red deer). We were able to demonstrate in patterns of arsenic and copper distribution in the human hair, that the “Iceman” was involved in copper processing (and not just the owner of a copper axe). This work also demonstrated the great potential in studying even small fragments of hair. Part of this work has been published in Brothwell, D. 2003. Analysis of the hair of the Neolithic Iceman. Pp 66-68 in N. Lynnerup, C. Andreasen and J. Berglund (eds) 2003. Mummies in the New Millennium. Copenhagen. Further publication is in preparation.  

Influencing the development of archaeological science

Over the years I have emphasized and put forward in the international scientific and archaeological communities, the importance of scientific research in archaeology. My recent edited volume with Mark Pollard (see earlier in this document) is the third of a series on this subject over the years, as I have persevered in time in my endeavour to demonstrate that scientific applications are critical to the development of the subject.  

Similarly, my monograph in collaboration with a senior radiologist, on radiological applications to archaeology mentioned earlier in this document was to indicate that this and other fields of science still need far more consideration and application to the study of archaeological finds. In another bioarchaeological direction, a new edition of my book “Food in Antiquity”, once more emphasizes the range of information to be derived from food debris, and has influenced greatly the current views and opinions of the international community on this subject.

Mummy studies and Nefertiti.

My research on mummies began in 1969 with a study on a well-preserved Guanche body from the Canary Islands. Since then, I have undertaken investigations especially on Peruvian and Egyptian mummies. Of these, the most famous was one of three bodies found in a side chamber of the Tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings,  in Egypt. This young adult female, possibly of the XVIII dynasty, could be the controversial queen Nefertiti. The TV programme made in relation to the investigation was a highly successful international film, Nefertiti  2003 ( by Atlantic TV and A&D Television Networks; see 

Current monograph-writing and related work

Revision of the next edition of my monograph Digging Up Bones. Since the first edition, this has had major impact internationally on the excavation and study of human remains.A detailed study is currently being undertaken of a large series of Roman burials in York, including soil sampling. This will form part of a major monograph on Romano-British burials being prepared by myself. A detailed review of the archaeology of birds is currently being prepared by myself and Prof. T. O’Connor



First year

Second year

Third year


Postgrad teaching

External activities



Editorial duties

Other:   1974-1993 Founder and Joint Editor of the Journal of Archaeological Science

Academic  1984-2004 Editor of Cambridge Manuals in Archaelogy

Commitments  1991-2000 Editorial Board, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology

1991-2008 Honorary membership of the Association for Environmental Archaeology (for long-term contribution to the subject)

      1992-to date Editorial Board, Journal of Palaeopathology (Italy)

      2003-todate Member, Academic (Science) Panel, Oxford Archaeology 

Also Previously: Fellow and Member of Council, Royal Anthropological Institute

      Member of the Science Panel for the Council of British Archaeology

      Member of the Deserted Medieval Group, UK

      Honorary Secretary and Member of the Galton Institute, London

      Programme Secretary, Society for the Study of Human Biology

      Member of the Anatomical Nomenclature Committee

Don in his office

Contact details

Prof. Don Brothwell
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 43 3934