I obtained my first degree in Ancient History and Egyptology from University College London in 1987, followed by a PhD entitled ‘Ancient Egyptian Hair: a study in style, form and function’ which I received from the University of Manchester in 1996.
As Honorary Research Fellow at the University of York I teach ancient Egyptian funerary archaeology as part of the archaeology degree course, and designed the first nationally available GCSE-equivalent (Level 2) qualification in Egyptology on behalf of the educational body Centra.
With my main interests centred around body adornment throughout the ancient world, long-term research into the use of wigs, perfumes, cosmetics, tattoos and amulets by the living and the dead led to a fascination with mummification and burial practices.
Over the last 15 years I have studied human remains across the world, from the UK and Ireland to Egypt and the Yemen, Peru and Chile, Italy and the Canary Islands. As a founding member of the York University’s Mummy Research Group set up in 1999, I work closely with Prof. Don Brothwell and Dr. Stephen Buckley; our projects include a joint collaboration between York and Sana'a University to study the mummies of ancient Yemen, and ongoing research as part of an international team set up to study recently discovered Iron Age bog bodies at the National Museum of Ireland. We are also conducting ongoing research into royal mummies from tomb KV.35 in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, which also combines research I am undertaking with Prof. Earl Ertman of Akron University on the ceremonial jewellery of 18th dynasty pharaohs.
In addition to my work in the field, I also undertake work at a number of museums. As Consultant Egyptologist for Harrogate Museums and Arts, I have been undertaking the long term study of their Egyptology collection since 2001 and following several successful temporary exhibitions, am currently preparing the permanent display of objects as part of a long-term project between the museum and the university funded by NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). I have also worked on exhibitions for Wakefield Museum, North Lincolnshire Museum, Glasgow’s Burrell Collection, Leiden’s Rijksmuseum and a BBC exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. I am currently researching the Egyptology collections of Hull and East Riding Museums, Wakefield Museum, the Hancock Museum, Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum and York Museums’ Trust.