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Department of Archaeology

 

Biography

I am the Curator of the Duckworth laboratory in the Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. Previous museum positions I have held include Osteologist in the Repatriation Osteology Laboratory, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Education & Outreach Assistant at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, and Associate Curator and Repatriation Coordinator (NAGPRA Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) at the San Diego Museum of Man in California. I teach in the Department about ethics, repatriation, treatment of the dead, mortuary archaeology, and osteology.

My research interests include modern death work, osteoarchaeology and paleopathology, mortuary archaeology of the Americas, gender, biomolecular archaeology, the Columbian Exchange, and museum studies focusing on working with human remains, repatriation and indigenous visibility.

I received a PhD in archaeology at the University of Cambridge in October 2013. My dissertation titled, ‘Investigating the Relationship between Labour and Gender, Material Culture, and Identity at an Inka Period Cemetery: a regional analysis of provincial burials from Lima, Peru’ combined human skeletal data, burial deposition, and documentary sources to assess identity of artisans under Inka (AD1400-1532) provincial control.

I am very involved in outreach and public engagement and have done podcasts, TV appearances, and really enjoy working with people of all ages to talk bones!

My technological proficiencies include:

  • Osteological and paleopathological analyses of human and mummified remains, faunal remains
  • Biomolecular Analyses in Archaeology (dental calculus, stable isotope analysis, aDNA)
  • XRF, SEM, X-ray, CT scanning, 3D rendering
  • Computing Systems incl. Osteoware, EMu, FileMaker Pro, IBM SPSS, Adobe Photoshop, Arc-GIS
  • Conservation and preparation of objects for preservation and exhibition

 

Research

Human osteology

Mummy studies

Ethics in bioarchaeology

Repatriation and decolonisation

Witchcraft and archaeology

Publications

Key publications: 

Forthcoming May 2022. The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Heritage, and Death. Co-editor with Dr Katie Clary, Coastal Carolina University, USA

2020 January     Biers, T. Rethinking Purpose, Protocol, and Popularity in Displaying the Dead in Museums. In: Squires K., Errickson D., Márquez-Grant N. (eds) Ethical Approaches to Human Remains. A Global Challenge in Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology. Springer. pp 239-263.

2017 February   Thomas, N.J., Biers, T., Cadwallader, L.C., Nuku, M., and Salmond, A.  The Provenance, date and significance of a Cook-voyage Polynesian sculpture. Antiquity.  Issue 355. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2016.221

2015 November Biers, T. and Harknett, SJ. Separating Artefact from Fiction: using museum education and outreach to increase archaeology’s relevance and impact in society. Archaeological Review from Cambridge. Archaeology: Myths within and without. Vol. 30. 2.

Forthcoming Biers, T., Cock-Carrasco, G.A. Bridging the Gap between Elite and Non-elite: identifying the artisan in the archaeological record. In Technology and the Making of Andean Societies. Vol. 2. Cooperation and power in the organsiation of production. Editor W. Sillar. University College London UCL Press, London.

 

Specialist Publications

2019      Contributor, BABAO Recommendations on the Ethical Issues Surrounding 2D and 3D Digital Imaging of Human Remains. British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO).

2016       Report and appendix; isotopic analysis of wood cellulose for object ‘D 1914.34’, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), University of Cambridge. Collaborator, Artefacts of Encounter: Pacific Voyages and Museums Histories. Edited by N. J. Thomas. University of Otago Press, New Zealand. In association with Dr. Lauren Cadwallader, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (Cambridge, UK). Funding, Pacific Presences Project, ERC 2013-2018.

2014       Report for the isotopic analysis of human and faunal dental/bone tissues for Project  Early Occupation of Piauí (Brazil).  In collaboration with the Fundação Museu  do Homem Amaricano (Brazil); Unidade de  Arqueologia – Universidade Trás-os-Montes e Alto  Douro (VialReal, Portugal), and the McDonald Institute for  Archaeological Research (Cambridge, UK). Funding, Arqueologia Pre-historica e Arte Rupestre do IPT\UTAD - Erasmus Mundus.

July 2014 Culture Collaboration, Culture Rescue. University of Cambridge Museums Blog, Cambridge, UK http://camunivmuseums.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/culture-collaboration-culture-rescue/

Nov 2013 Day of the Dead. University of Cambridge Museums Blog, Cambridge, UK http://camunivmuseums.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/day-of-the-dead/

2013       Conference Report, BABAO Annual Review 2013, British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology

2009      Info Packet: The Region of Ica, Peru: Chincha, Palpa, Ica, Pisco. Contributor, translations, and informant interviews for travel guide of the south coast of Peru for post- earthquake support of 2007, published by the South American Explorers Club, Lima, Peru.

May 2002 Footsteps Through Time: 4 Million Years of Human Evolution Exhibition Catalog. Co-editor with T. Heflin, San Diego Museum of Man, National Science Foundation

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1467-7667

Teaching and Supervisions

Teaching: 

B18 Human Osteology

A13/G22 Repatriation, Decolonisation, Ethics

A2 Death & Burial, Science and the Dead, Human Osteology Practicals

A12 Ethics and the Dead, Burial Treatment in South America, Big Questions in Mortuary Studies

Research supervision: 

PhD Advisor for Elifgul Dogan

PhD Advisor for Leanne Daly

Other Professional Activities

Ethics Committee for the Dept of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

Museum Representative, Board of Trustees, British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO)

Member of the BABAO Taskforce for the Sale and Trade of Human Remains

Job Titles

Curator of the Duckworth Laboratory
Osteologist and Paleopathologist

General Info

Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Museum Studies
Osteoarchaeology
Human Population Genetics
Human Population Biology and Health
Socio-Politics of the Past
Biomolecular Archaeology
Heritage Management
Cultural Heritage

Contact Details

Henry Wellcome Building
Fitzwilliam Street
Cambridge
CB2 1QH

Affiliations

Person keywords: 
Collections work
Stable Isotope Analysis
Osteoarchaeology
Mortuary analysis
The Body
bioarchaeology
skeletal biology
Repatriation
Subjects: 
Archaeological Science
Biological Anthropology
Heritage Studies
Themes: 
Heritage
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: 
Americas
Britain
Cambridgeshire
Egypt and Sudan
Europe
Periods of interest: 
Classical - Roman
Iron Age
Medieval
Neolithic
Other Historical
Other Late Prehistory
Pharaonic
Post-Medieval