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Department of Archaeology



During my MA at the University of Southampton, I developed an interest in Neolithic funerary practices and the analysis of commingled remains through taphonomy. For my PhD, which formed part of the 'FRAGSUS' ERC project, I investigated the treatment of the dead in late Neolithic Malta through taphonomic analysis of human remains from two collective burial sites: the Xagħra Circle (Gozo) and Xemxija Tombs (Malta). Since 2014, I have been involved in fieldwork in the Avebury region, and I am the osteologist for the 'Living with Monuments' AHRC project. I also have fieldwork experience in Italy, Malta and Egypt. From 2018-2019, I worked as a Collections Assistant at the Duckworth Laboratory and between 2018-2020 I worked as a Research Assistant on the 'After the Plague: Health in Medieval Cambridge' project. In 2020, I started my current role on the ERC-funded 'ANCESTORS' project. In addition, I am Co-Investigator for the 'The Sentinels of Ħal Saflieni, Malta' project, led by Dr. Ronika Power, which is carrying out the first full bioarchaeological study of the human remains from the UNESCO inscribed Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.


  • PhD in Archaeology, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, funded by the AHRC - 2019
  • MA Osteoarchaeology (Distinction), funded by the AHRC, University of Southampton - 2015
  • BA Archaeology (Hons), University of Southampton - 2013


I am a bioarchaeologist specialising in the European Neolithic with a particular focus on reconstructing interactions with the dead through funerary taphonomy. I am especially interested in methods of analysing and interpreting commingled and fragmented remains. My work is predicated on the understanding that deathways respond to, and can extend, aspects of an individual's life and I seek to intertwine the study of life histories with funerary practices to ask questions about individual and communal identity, power, gender and personhood. 

  • Neolithic Europe
  • Italian prehistory
  • Maltese prehistory
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Commingled human remains
  • Death and burial
  • Funerary taphonomy
  • Archaeological theory  

Key Publications

Key publications: 

Edited volumes:

Stoddart, S., Power, R.K., Thompson, J.E., Mercieca-Spiteri, B., McLaughlin, R., Pace, A. and Malone, C. (eds). Forthcoming. Temple People: Bioarchaeology, Resilience and Culture in Prehistoric Malta. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Fine, L.J and Thompson, J.E. (eds.) 2018. Glocal Archaeology. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 33(1). ISSN 0261-4332.

Peer-reviewed articles:

Thompson, J.E., Power, R.K., Mercieca-Spiteri, B., Magnussen, J., Buck, L.T., Stock, J.T., McLaughlin, T., Stoddart, S., Malone, C. 2021. Analysis of periosteal lesions from commingled remains at the Xagħra Circle hypogeum (Gozo) reveals the first case of probable scurvy in Neolithic Malta. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. DOI: 10.1002/oa.3040

Thompson, J.E., Parkinson, E.W., McLaughlin, T.R., Barratt, R., Power, R.K., Mercieca-Spiteri, B., Stoddart, S., Malone, C. 2020. Placing and remembering the dead in late Neolithic Malta: bioarchaeological and spatial analysis of the Xagħra Circle hypogeum, Gozo. World Archaeology 52(1): 71–89. DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2019.1745680

Thompson, J.E. 2019. Tinkering with the Dead: Taphonomic analysis of human remains from Tinkinswood Chambered Tomb. Archaeologia Cambrensis 168: 35–57. ISSN 0306-6924

Thompson, J.E., Martín-Vega, D., Power, R. K., Stoddart, S. and Malone, C. 2018. Identification of dermestid pupal chambers to Neolithic human bone: Implications for funerary practices at the Xemxija Tombs, Malta. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 22: 123–131. DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.09.016

Book chapters:

Malone, C., McLaughlin, R., Mercieca-Spiteri, B., Parkinson, E., Power, R.K., Stock, J., Stoddart, S. and Thompson, J. 2018. The social implications of death in prehistoric Malta. In Schmitt, A., Déderix, S., Driessen, J. and Crevecoeur, I. (eds.) Gathered in Death: Archaeological and Ethnological Perspectives on Collective Burial and Social Organisation. Aegis Archéologie du Monde Minoen. Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain, 128–142.

Articles (not peer-reviewed):

Thompson, J. 2017. Reconstructing Burial Practices at the Xagħra Circle, Gozo. Tesserae, The Bulletin of Heritage Malta 4: 28–35.

Teaching and Supervisions


In the past, I have supervised on papers A1 (World Archaeology), A4 (Being Human) and A12 (Archaeological Theory and Practice II) and I have acted as a guest lecturer on papers including the Archaeology of Death and Burial (Macquarie University), Archaeological Theory and Practice I (Cambridge University) and MA Practical Archaeology (University of Malta).


Other Professional Activities

Principal Investigator – Osteobiographies of a Double Burial at the West Kennet Palisades, funded by the D M McDonald Grants & Awards Fund

Co-Investigator – The Sentinels of Ħal Saflieni, Malta Project (PI: Assoc. Prof. Ronika Power),  funded by the Union Académique Internationale.

Trench supervisor and osteologist – Living with Monuments Project (PIs: Prof. Josh Pollard and Prof. Mark Gillings), funded by the AHRC.

Job Titles

Research Associate, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

General Info

Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Human Population Biology and Health
Socio-Politics of the Past
Archaeological Theory

Contact Details

2.1, West Building
jet71 [at]


Person keywords: 
Funerary taphonomy
Prehistoric Europe
Death and burial
Biological Anthropology
Science, Technology and Innovation
Rethinking Complexity
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age