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Dr Jess Beck

Dr Jess Beck

Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Fellow in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Downing Street



An osteoarchaeologist who received her BA from McGill University and her PhD from the University of Michigan, Jess most recently spent the 2016-2017 academic year as a visiting scholar at the University of Pittsburgh in the Center for Comparative Archaeology.

Subject groups/Research projects

Dorothy Garrod Laboratory:

Research Interests

  • Archaeology of Late Prehistoric Europe (Copper Age and Bronze Age);
  • Osteoarchaeology;
  • Mortuary archaeology;
  • Commingled human remains;
  • Inequality;
  • Social complexity

My research focuses on the emergence of social complexity and inequality in Late Prehistoric Europe. I use osteoarchaeology and mortuary archaeology to investigate the organization of Copper Age and Bronze Age communities in Iberia and Romania.

My doctoral research analyzed collective human burials from one of the first large-scale villages in Iberia (Marroquíes Bajos in Jaén, Spain), drawing upon analysis of human skeletal remains, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and strontium isotopic evidence of diet and mobility, radiocarbon dating, and material culture.

I am currently engaged in a field project focused on the osteoarchaeology and mortuary archaeology of the Apuseni Mountain region of southwestern Transylvania. MARBAL (Mortuary Archaeology of the Râmeț Bronze Age Landscape) investigates Early Bronze Age populations from a region home to some of the richest copper and gold resources in Europe. My research will explore how control of valuable metal resources affected the daily lives of Bronze Age people, and whether restricted control of local resources led to the emergence of inequality between individuals and communities.

Other Professional Activities

Member of Churchill College

Key Publications

Beck, Jess. (In Press). Bioarchaeological Approaches to Social Organization at Marroquíes Bajos (Jaén, Spain). Accepted to MENGA: Journal of Andalucían Prehistory, 05 September, 2017.

Quinn, Colin and Jess Beck. (2016) Essential tensions in mortuary contexts: Exploring inequality through bioarchaeology. Open Archaeology, Topical Issue in Bioarchaeology. 2:18-41.

(Open access:

Beck, Jess. (2016) Minding the gaps: A methodological approach to inter-individual variability in skeletal completion. American Antiquity 81(4):148-156.

Beck, Jess. (2016) Part of the family: Age, identity and burial in Copper Age Iberia. In Theoretical Approaches to Analysis and Interpretation of Commingled Human Remains. Edited by A. Osterholtz, pp. 47-73. Springer International: Cham.

Other Publications

Waterman, Anna, Jess Beck, Jonathan T. Thomas, and Robert H. Tykot. (In Press). Stable isotope analysis of human remains from Los Millares (Almeria, Spain, C. 2500-1800 BC): Regional comparisons and dietary variability. Accepted to MENGA: Journal of Andalucían Prehistory, 05 September 2017.

Kinkopf, Katherine and Jess Beck. (2016). Bioarchaeological approaches to looting: A case study from Sudan. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 263-271.

Beck, Jess, Ian Ostericher, Gregory Sollish and Jason De León. (2015). Animal scavenging and scattering and the implications for documenting the deaths of undocumented border crossers in the Sonoran Desert. Journal of Forensic Sciences 60: S11-S20.