Dr Camilla Speller
Senior Lecturer



I received my BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Calgary in 1999. My MA, completed at the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in 2005, used ancient DNA analysis to examine the distribution of salmon species at the Northwest Plateau site of Keatley Creek, BC, Canada. My PhD dissertation, also completed at Simon Fraser University in 2009, applied ancient DNA techniques to study the use of wild and domestic turkeys in the Southwest United States. In 2010, I was awarded a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship to continue my research on North American turkey domestication at the University of Calgary, and helped to develop the new ancient DNA laboratory in the Department of Archaeology. In 2012, I joined the BioArCh as a Marie Curie postdoctoral research fellow (EU-IIF) where I applied ZooMS and ancient DNA analysis to questions of historic whale exploitation. I became a Lecturer in Archaeology in 2014. I lead the ancient genetics group at BioArCh, and in 2016 was award the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Archaeology for my research in the area of Environmental Archaeology. 


2017 – Present   Senior Lecturer,Department of Archaeology, University of York, York, UK

2014- 2017  Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of York, York, UK

2012-2014  Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, BioArCh, University of York, York, UK

2010-2012  SSHRC Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, AB

2005-2009  Doctoral Program, Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

2005  MA Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC

1999  BA Archaeology/Anthropology, with Honors and Distinction, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB

Departmental roles

2014-16 - Deputy/Admissions Tutor

2014- ongoing - Subject Facilitator and Program Co-Leader for Natural Sciences

2017/18 - Chair of Teaching Committee



My research interests focus on the application of biomolecular analyses (ancient DNA and proteins) to archaeological and anthropological questions, with a particular interest in ancient human microbiomes, animal domestication, and environmental archaeology.


Human Microbiomes: The human body hosts billions of bacteria, which play a major role in influencing our health, wellbeing and behaviour. New biomolecular methods have allowed us to gain insight into the evolution and ecology of these microbiomes through the analysis of ancient dental calculus (fossilized plaque) and coprolites. My research is applying metagenomic and metaproteomic analysis to investigate the ancient human microbiomes and their implications for health, disease and diet in past populations. 

Animal domestication: The animal domestication process represents a quintessential model for examining the shifting nature and intensity of human-animal relationships. My research is using ancient DNA and proteins, stable isotopes and osteological techniques to examine the use of wild and domestic turkey stocks in the American Southwest and Mesoamerica. 

ORCA – Optimizing Research on Cetaceans in Archaeology: Whale hunting has been practiced by a variety of cultures worldwide for millennia, but today whales are one of the most threatened group of mammals, almost exclusively due to recent industrial hunting practices. Archaeological investigations into the history of whaling are vital for understanding the long-term exploitation of these important marine mammals, and also because they provide essential ecological baseline data on pre-industrial whale populations. My research applies DNA and collagen-based methods (ZooMS) to investigate the taxonomic abundance and distribution of whale species through time and space, and explore how accurate species identification affects current hypotheses on the prehistory of whale hunting and exploitation in different regions worldwide. 

Herring School

Research group(s)

I am the Director of the Ancient DNA Laboratory in BioArCh, and supervise postdoctoral, doctoral, and Masters projecs in ancient DNA and proteins. 


2017 (PI) European Commission, Marie Skłodowska-Curie-IF ‘TURKEY: Uncovering the Transatlantic History of Turkey Husbandry using a Multi-Disciplinary Approach’, €195,455

2017 (PI) European Commission, Marie Skłodowska-Curie-IF ‘OVINE: Ovine Variation in North Eastern Europe’, €183,455

2017 (Co-I) European Commission, Marie Skłodowska-Curie-IF SCRIBE: ‘Reading the genetic history of parchment manuscripts’, €195,455

2017 (Co-I) National Science Foundation, ‘Documenting Turkey Husbandry and Domestication in Ancient Mesoamerica’, US$172,183 (PI E Kennedy Thornton, WSU)

2016 Philip Leverhulme Prize in Archaeology, £100,000

2016 (Co-I) European Commission, ‘ArchSci2020: Archaeology on the Edge: Northern Europe and the Circumpolar World’, £749,249

2016 (PI), White Rose University Consortium, ‘Making Mouths: Assessing the incorporation and survival of biological signals in oral biofilms’, £10,900

2016 (PI) AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, ‘Digital Tools for Molecular Conservation and Heritage’,  £137,296

2015 (PI) Wellcome Trust, ‘A plaque on both your houses: Exploring the history of urbanisation and infectious diseases through the study of archaeological dental tartar’, £55,049

2015 (Collaborator) NSF, ‘Direct Proteomic Investigation of Variable Dairying Practices’, US$188,158 (PI, C. Warinner, MPI-SHH)

2015 (Co-I) Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), ‘Did Rheumatoid Arthritis Really Begin in 1800?’, £19,625 (PI M Alexander, Univ York)

2013 (PI) C2D2, ‘Investigating Chronic Periodontal Disease through History’, £21,763

2012 Marie Skłodowska-Curie International Incoming Fellowship, €209,000 (PI M Hofreiter, Univ York)

2012 (Collaborator) NSF, ‘Re-examining the History of Turkey Husbandry in the Maya Lowlands’, US$185,855 (PI E. Kennedy Thornton -WSU, K. Emery FMNH)

2011 (Co-I) Alberta Conservation Association, ‘Assessing pre-historic distribution, abundance and genetic diversity of elk in Alberta’, CAN$19,060 (PI B Kooyman, Univ Calgary)

2010 (PI) Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS, ‘Ancient DNA-based investigation of the origins and history of domesticated sheep in China’, US$36,000

2010 SSHRC Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship, $81,000


Current PhD Students

2015 – Lisa McKenzie, Occupational Health in the Post-Medieval Period: Insights from dental calculus (self-funded)

2016 – Anne Kathrine Runge, Uncovering the potential of dental calculus in exploring ancient diet and subsistence (funded through European Commission International Training Network ArchSci2020)

2016 – Abigail Lowe (co-supervision), Molecular Tools for Digital Heritage, co-supervision (AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Natural History Museum)

2017 – Eleanor Green, Molecular Tools for Digital Heritage, (AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Natural History Museum)

2017 – Aurore Monnereau, Tracking Ancestry: Ancient genomic analysis of multi-faith populations from Medieval Sicily (funded through EU project: SICTRANSIT)



First year

Second year

World Archaeology: Plant and Animal Domestication

Third year

Special Topics: Plant and Animal Domestication 

Assessed Seminars: Human Impact on Past Ecosystems 

Assessed Seminars: Debates in Archaeological Science

External activities


Research Associate, Centre for Forensic Research, at Simon Fraser University


Society for American Archaeology
Canadian Archaeological Association
International Council for Archaeozoology
Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology
Society for Archaeological Science 



Contact details

Dr Camilla Speller
University of York
BioArCh, Environment Building
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD

Tel: (44) 1904 328868