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Department of Archaeology



I conduct research on the persistence of proteins in ancient samples, using modelling to explore the racemization of amino acids and thermal history to predict the survival of DNA and other molecules. Using a combination of approaches (including immunology and protein mass spectrometry) my research detects and interprets protein remnants in archaeological and fossil remains.

With former PhD student Dr Mike Buckley I developed ZooMS (Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry) a way to rapidly identify bone and other collagen based materials using peptide mass fingerprinting.



The application of acient proteins to archaeology

Analysis of protein evolution and decay


I am presently involved in the following research projects in:

2016-2021 Niels Bohr Professor of Palaeoproteomics: University of Copenhagen: To establish new research capacity in plaeoprotemics in Denmark

2018 - 2023 Beasts to Craft:  Parchment as a biological archive

2019-20203 ArcHives: Beeswax as a biological archive


 Also visit:

Information for Prospective Postgraduate Students

Students that work with me have to be self motivated as my post in Cambridge is only 40%, 60% of the time I am in Copenhagen.   At present I have sufficient students, and do not think that I can realistically supervise more than I am planning to take on in 2021 from the ChemArch and PlaCE ITNs

I do not take self funded students, but will try to work with you to help find funding.

I like to collaborate so if you do contact me, I may try to find a way for you to work with my colleagues and I. 


Key publications: 

Demarchi, B., Hall, S., Roncal-Herrero, T., Freeman, C. L., Woolley, J., Crisp, M. K., Wilson, J., Fotakis, A., Fischer, R., Kessler, B. M., Rakownikow Jersie-Christensen, R., Olsen, J. V., Haile, J., Thomas, J., Marean, C. W., Parkington, J., Presslee, S., Lee-Thorp, J., Ditchfield, P., … Collins, M. J. (2016). Protein sequences bound to mineral surfaces persist into deep time. eLife, 5, e17092.

Hendy, J., Colonese, A. C., Franz, I., Fernandes, R., Fischer, R., Orton, D., Lucquin, A., Spindler, L., Anvari, J., Stroud, E., Biehl, P. F., Speller, C., Boivin, N., Mackie, M., Jersie-Christensen, R. R., Olsen, J. V., Collins, M. J., Craig, O. E., & Rosenstock, E. (2018). Ancient proteins from ceramic vessels at Çatalhöyük West reveal the hidden cuisine of early farmers. Nature Communications, 9(1), 4064.

Jensen, T. Z. T., Niemann, J., Iversen, K. H., Fotakis, A. K., Gopalakrishnan, S., Vågene, Å. J., Pedersen, M. W., Sinding, M.-H. S., Ellegaard, M. R., Allentoft, M. E., Lanigan, L. T., Taurozzi, A. J., Nielsen, S. H., Dee, M. W., Mortensen, M. N., Christensen, M. C., Sørensen, S. A., Collins, M. J., Gilbert, M. T. P., … Schroeder, H. (2019). A 5700 year-old human genome and oral microbiome from chewed birch pitch. Nature Communications, 10(1), 5520.

Teasdale, M. D., Fiddyment, S., Vnouček, J., Mattiangeli, V., Speller, C., Binois, A., Carver, M., Dand, C., Newfield, T. P., Webb, C. C., Bradley, D. G., & Collins, M. J. (2017). The York Gospels: a 1000-year biological palimpsest. Royal Society Open Science, 4(10), 170988.

Verdugo, M. P., Mullin, V. E., Scheu, A., Mattiangeli, V., Daly, K. G., Maisano Delser, P., Hare, A. J., Burger, J., Collins, M. J., Kehati, R., Hesse, P., Fulton, D., Sauer, E. W., Mohaseb, F. A., Davoudi, H., Khazaeli, R., Lhuillier, J., Rapin, C., Ebrahimi, S., … Bradley, D. G. (2019). Ancient cattle genomics, origins, and rapid turnover in the Fertile Crescent. Science, 365(6449), 173–176.

Other publications: 

Teaching and Supervisions


Current students:

  • Carla de Soto Parchment decay and conservation (with Devro)
  • Erin M Keenan Early ZooMS of N. American Fauna (Texas)
  • Tuuli Kasso (Copenhagen)
  • Laura Vinas (Copenhaggen)
  • Bharath Nair (Copenhagen)
  • Bia Fonseca (Copenhagen, with Karina Sand)
  • Liam Llanigan (Copenhagen, with Hannes Schroeder and Tom Gilbert
  • Ruairidh Macleod (Cambridge, MPhil)
  • Yuan Yue (Cambridge)
  • Miranda Evan (Cambridge, with Tamsin O'Connell, and Jessie Hendy, York)
  • Tianyi Wang (Cambridge with Piers Mitchell)
  • Sophie Rabinow (Cambridge  with Piers Mitchell) 

Past students:

  • Andrew Spooner 1992 Industry Environment
  • Ben Stern 1993 Senior Lecturer Bradford
  • Emman Waite 1997 Industry Bioscience
  • Dave Robertson 1998 Industry Petroleum
  • Oliver Craig 1998 Professor, York
  • Colin Smith 2000 Senior Lecturer, LaTrobe, University
  • Jen Hiller 2001   Industry
  • Miranda Jans 2001 Forensics (US Military)
  • Kirsty Penkman 2001 Professor York
  • Rebecca Griffin 2002 Administration Canberra
  • Hannah Koon 2003 Senior Lecturer Bradford
  • Simon McGrory 2006 Project Officer (Heritage)
  • Rose Drew 2004 Osteoarchaeology
  • Mike Buckley 2010 Royal Society Research Professor, Manchester
  • Nienke Van Doorn 2012 Industry York Archaeological Trust
  • Isabella von Holstein 2012 PDRA, Amsterdam
  • Jo Powell 2013 Industry
  • Marc Wadsley 2013 Bioinformatics NHS
  • Yang Yue 2013 Industry Environment
  • Frido Welker 2017 Assistant Professor, Copenhagen
  • Jessica Hendy 2017 Lecturer, York
  • Sean Doherty, 2016, Postdoc Exeter
  • Jiri Vnoucek, Postdoc B2C, Conservator Royal Library
  • Keri Rowsell,Research Administration (UCL)
  • Ioannis Kontopoulos, Postdoc (Copenhagen)
  • Theis Jensen, Postdoc (Copenhagen)
  • Abigail Lowe, Postdoc (Copenhagen)
  • Talari Gopai, PhD (UCD)
Research supervision: 

I currently supervise students investigating in a range of topics related to the use of proteins to address archaeological research questions from evolution, to diet, disease, demography and chronology.  I am interested in supervising students with a passion to work across disciplines who wish to study for an MPhil or a PhD in the following topics:

  • Modelling the survival and decay of ancient proteins
  • Mathematical approaches to the analysis of complex datasets
  • Developing low cost tools for demography
  • Developing novel methods to extract and analyse ancient proteins
  • Applying ancient protein analysis to their archaeological repertoire

Other Professional Activities

Fellow of the British Academy

Niels Bohr Professor in Palaeoproteomics, University of Copenhagen

Member of the Royal Danish Society of Science and Letters

Job Titles

McDonald Professor in Palaeoproteomics
Matthew Collins  (image Lars Svankjær)

General Info

Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Biomolecular Archaeology
Cultural Heritage

Contact Details

Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge
matthew [at]


Person keywords: 
Ancient Proteins
Archaeological Science
Science, Technology and Innovation
Material Culture
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: 
Egypt and Sudan
Southeast Asia
Periods of interest: 
Other Historical