Beatrice Demarchi
Research Fellow



Beatrice was awarded her MSc in Conservation Science at University of Turin in 2006 and her PhD in Archaeology at York in 2009.
Her interests lie in understanding the mechanisms of protein decay in the archaeological and fossil record with specific application to the dating of archaeological and geological Quaternary sites.  

Her initial work focused upon the use of a wide range of non-destructive analytical techniques to characterise the degradation of both organic and inorganic surfaces from historic buildings and she specifically investigated the impact of chemical and biological deterioration of carbonates. Following the successful award of her Masters (cum laude and Optime prize for the Industrial Union in Turin), she moved to York as a Marie Curie Fellow to explore the potential of marine molluscs as a geochronological tool to date beach deposits and anthropogenic accumulations.  This work took her to sites across the UK and around the Mediterranean.
She is currently employed as a NERC Postdoctoral Associate and she is specialised in using mass-spectrometric methods to examine the decay of protein in a model system (ostrich eggshells) in order to improve the gechronology of sites in Southern Africa, to establish the beginning of modern human behaviour. Beatrice was also awarded a Marie Curie (Re)Integration Grant  for the project mAARiTIME, which aims to build an integrated geochronology for key Quaternary coastal sites around the Mediterranean rim.




Full publications list

Scientific Publications

Demarchi, B., Rogers, K., Fa, D.A., Finlayson, C.J., Milner, N., Penkman, K.E.H, 2012.  Intra-crystalline protein diagenesis (IcPD) in Patella vulgata. Part I: Isolation and testing of the closed system. Quaternary Geochronology,

Demarchi, B., Collins, M.J., Tomiak, P.J., Davies, B., Penkman, K.E.H., 2012. Intra-crystalline protein diagenesis (IcPD) in Patella vulgata. Part II: Breakdown and temperature sensitivity. Quaternary Geochronology,              

Crisp, M., Demarchi, B., Collins, M. J., Penkman, K. E. H., accepted. Isolation of the intracrystalline proteins and kinetic studies in Struthio camelus (ostrich) eggshell for amino acid geochronology. Quaternary Geochronology.

Tomiak, P. J., Penkman, K. E. H., Hendy, E., Demarchi, B., Murrels, S., Davis, S. A., McCullagh, P., Collins, M. J., 2012. Testing the limitations of artificial protein degradation kinetics using known age massive Porites coral skeletons. Quaternary Geochronology,

Davies, B.J., Roberts, D.H., Bridgland, D.R., Ó Cofaigh, C., Riding, J., Pawley, S.M., Demarchi, B., Penkman, K.E.H., 2012. Middle Pleistocene Glaciomarine Environments at Warren House Gill, UK. Quaternary Science Reviews 44, 180–212.

Demarchi, B., Williams, M. G., Milner, N., Russell, N., Bailey, G.N., Penkman, K.E.H., 2011. Amino acid racemization dating of marine shells: A mound of possibilities. Quaternary International 239, 114-124.

Davies, B.J., Bridgland D.R., Roberts, D.H., Ó Cofaigh, C., Pawley, S.M., Candy, I., Demarchi, B., Penkman, K.E.H., and Austin, W.E.N., 2009. The age and stratigraphic context of the Easington Raised Beach, County Durham, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 120, 183-198.

Book Chapters

Demarchi, B. 2008 Amino acid clockwork in: Van Asperen, E., E. Becker, B. Demarchi, F. Gröning & O. Panagiotopoulou: PALAEO, Interdisciplinary approaches to reconstructing the past, York.

Selected papers presented at scientific meetings

Demarchi, B., Crisp., M., Marean, C. Lee-Thorp, J., Collins, M.J., Penkman, K.E.H. New perspectives on Amino Acid Racemisation dating: breaking the egg. International Symposium on Archaeometry, May 2012, Leuven, Belgium.

Demarchi, B., Collins, M.J., Buckley, M., Crisp, M., Cappellini, E. , Thomas-Oates, J., Lee-Thorp, J., Penkman, K.E.H. “A chain of peptides: a new mass spectrometric tool for modelling protein diagenesis”. 18th Congress of the International Union for Quaternary Research, Jul 2011, Bern, Switzerland.

Demarchi, B., Cappellini, E., Crisp, M., Buckley, M., Collins, M.J., Thomas-Oates, J., Marean, C., Penkman, K.E.H. “Dating MSA South African sites with amino acid racemisation geochronology; Building a Better Eggtimer”.  Langebaanweg 2010, Nov 2010, Cape Town, South Africa.

Demarchi, B. & Penkman, K.E.H. “Dating the Last Interglacial in the Mediterranean: a new closed system approach of amino acid racemisation (AAR) geochronology”. Decoding the Last Interglacial in the Western Mediterranean, INQUA Project 0911, Oct 2010, Cagliari, Italy.

Demarchi, B., Cappellini, E., Crisp, M., Buckley, M., Collins, M.J., Thomas-Oates, J., Lee-Thorp, J., Marean, C., Penkman, K.E.H. “Smashing the eggtimer: investigating the amino acid clock”. International Symposium in Biomolecular Archaeology, Sep 2010, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Demarchi, B. & Penkman, K.E.H. “Desperate dating for the Old Men: new advances in amino acid racemisation”. CALPE conference, Sep 2009, Gibraltar.

Demarchi, B. & Penkman, K. 2008 "AAR and fossil shells: unveil the undatable". International Symposium in Biomolecular Archaeology, Sep 2008, York, UK (3rd poster prize).

Demarchi, B. & Penkman, K.E.H. "AAR dating: geochemistry at the service of the past". British Organic Geochemistry Society annual meeting, Jul 2008, Newcastle, UK (best student talk prize).

Demarchi, B. & Penkman, K.E.H. "Early humans on the Rock: new developments in amino acid racemisation dating". 37th International Symposium on Archaeometry, May 2008, Siena, Italy.

Demarchi, B., van Asperen, E. & Penkman, K. 2007 "To date or not to date?". Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting, Dec 2007, York, UK.

Demarchi, B., Penkman, K. & Collins, M. 2007 "Prehistoric sea-shores: shells, humans and ice". Poster presented at UKAS Conference, Sep 2007, Cambridge, UK (2nd poster prize).



Research Interests

Coastal Archaeology & Geochronology

  • Reconstructing the role of seashores on early human evolution and dispersal and how Quaternary climatic changes affected coastal environments. Developing a chronological framework for marine deposits in different areas of the world based on AAR dating in fossil shells. 

Analytical methods

  • Mass spectrometry to explore mechanisms of protein breakdown.
  • Liquid chromatography to quantify the extent of protein diagenesis and amino acid racemisation
  • FT-IR and UV-vis spectroscopy, SEC and Gas Chromatography, X-Ray Diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy for conservation studies


  • Role of proteins in the initiation and control of mineral phases

Conservation Sciences

  • Scientific studies of the materials constituting an art/archaeological object
  • Application of science and technology to the conservation of cultural heritage and past material cultures



Marine Amino Acid Racemisation Investigation of the MEditerranean rim, EU (Re)Integration Grant, 2010-2013

The EU award MAARTiME is designed to extend the potential for amino chronology of coastal sites spanning the last 200,000 years, with implications for understanding the beginning of modern human behaviour. Key sites include the cave sites at the Haua Fteah (Libya), Cueva de los Aviones (Spain), Gruta de Figueira Brava (Portugal), Gorham’s and Vanguard’s caves (Gibraltar), Dar es Soltan (Morocco), Grotta della Serratura and Grotta del Cavallo (Italy), Ksar Akil (Lebanon) as well as a range of raised beach deposits in Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus.

Building a better Eggtimer

NERC, 2009-2013

Our first objective is to test the closed system approach of AAR dating on ostrich eggshell (OES). Therefore we will:
  • Test the closed system behaviour of OES with regard to protein diagenesis
  • Obtain a relative AAR geochronology for the Mossel Bay sites (Marean et al, Nature, 2007)
  • Calibrate it with available absolute age information
  • Obtain contextualised palaeoenviromental information by stable isotope analysis of the dated material
The second objective is to refine our understanding of the chemical reactions driving protein diagenesis and to apply this knowledge to improve the accuracy of protein diagenesis dating.  This includes:
  • Optimising the methodology for the extraction and analysis of ancient proteins from South African OES.
  • Applying state-of-the-art proteomic and chiral amino acid analyses to track breakdown of model peptides and proteins in real time

Past projects                       

PhD: Geochronology of coastal prehistoric environments: a new closed system approach using amino acid racemisation

The project attempts to develop a method of dating shells from marine and coastal sites in an effort to improve a dating of sites which are important to the early habitation of hominins. Shells are biominerals, in which an organic (mainly proteic) matrix is deeply embedded in a calcium carbonate skeleton. The idea behind this project is to isolate a closed system in which proteins will decay under predictable conditions. Because the rate of decay is improved strongly by temperature it is hoped that these data can show climate changes occurred in the past.

I analysed a number of coastal sites from around the world including the earliest modern humans in Britain, the last Neanderthal in Gibraltar and the earliest humans in South-East Asia.

MSc and BSc (Conservation)

  • Biodeterioration of plasters and coatings of the arcades of the City of Turin (2005-2006)
  • Characterisation of artificially-aged pictorial varnishes (natural and synthetic polymers) (2004)



First year

Introduction to Archaeological Science

Year 2011/2012

  • Designed and delivered lectures on dating in archaeology (e.g. radiocarbon, dendrochronology, tephrachronology)
  • Restructured tests for formative assessment on the VLE
  • Re-organised and adapted the material available for the lectures.

Second year

Practical Skills in Biomolecular Archaeology

Year 2011/2012

  • Designed weekly formative assessments and exercises on the application of proteomics to archaeology
  • Coached students in the classroom during the execution of the exercises
  • Collaborated on the design of the summative assessment for the module.

Supervision of dissertations

Dissertations at Master level

  • Year 2010/11 – 1 MChem student (University of York)
  • Year 2011/12 – 2 MSc Biology and Anthropology students (Erasmus Placement students from the University of Rome, Italy); 1 MChem student (University of York)

Dissertations at Undergraduate level

  • Year 2011/12 –1 BA Archaeology student (University of York)

Teaching at diversified levels

Amino Acid Geochronology Training Course (bi-annual); since 2008

Teaching the theory and practice of amino acid geochronology in the NERC-recognised NEaar laboratory (York):

  • Intensive small-group teaching in the laboratory and computer-based data analysis over two weeks: sample preparation and analysis by liquid chromatography
  • Data analysis and interpretation

External activities


PALAEO: Centre for Human Palaeoecology & Evolutionary Origins (University of York)

BMSS: the British Mass Spectrometry Society

QRA: the Quaternary Research Association

Editorial duties


International Journals: Archaeometry, Quaternary Geochronology, Journal of Sedimentary Research, Zoology.

Books: PALAEO, Interdisciplinary approaches to reconstructing the past, York.

Conference proceedings: International Symposium in Biomolecular Archaeology (abstract book), Springer Conference Proceedings.

Invited talks and conferences

From Spring 2013 - Contributor for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods (Springer)

March 2012 - Invited seminar: Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, University of Oxford (UK).

November 2011 - Invited lecturer: “Science and the past” course, University of Zaragoza (Spain).


3rd prize - poster communication: International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology, York, UK. September 2008.

Member of the organisation committee for the International Symposium in Biomolecular Archaeology (York); leader for the abstract book publication team. September 2008.

1st prize - oral communication: British Organic Geochemistry Society annual meeting, Newcastle, UK. July 2008.

2nd prize - poster communication: UKAS Conference, Cambridge, UK. September 2007.

Optime Prize  “Menzione” for MSc : awarded by the Industrial Union of Turin, Italy. September 2007.

Optime Prize  “Menzione” for BSc: awarded by the Industrial Union of Turin, Italy. September 2005.

Contact details

Dr Beatrice Demarchi
University of York
BioArCh, Environment Building
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD

Tel: (44) 1904 328559