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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


The Department of Anthropology hosts a range of state-of-the-art research facilities that are used and run by academic members of staff and their postgraduate students. Given our commitment to research-led teaching, undergraduates and taught postgraduates frequently conduct research projects using these facilities. See here for further resources and support for undergraduate students and postgraduate students.

Bilsborough Laboratory

The Bilsborough Laboratory houses one of the best collections of fossil hominin cast material in the country for palaeoanthropological and morphometric research in biological anthropology. It comprises an extensive collection of hominin casts as well as human and non-human primate skeletal material, with an emphasis on skulls (approximately 70 non-human primate examples and 25 human skulls).

This material is used for both research and teaching purposes. Linear measurements as well as 3D data capture is possible, using digital callipers, scanning equipment and digitizers. Contact Dr Fire Kovarovic for further information.

Material Culture Collection

The department houses an extensive collection of material culture objects from around the world, and are actively used in both research and teaching of ethnography.

This collection of over 2000 objects is the only collection in the North East of England that is still actively acquiring objects. It is a museum registered (DURAN) collection with online database access, fully catalogued by accession number, description, material, continent, country, dimensions and photograph. Find out more about the collection, and research in material culture at Durham.

This in-house collection is supplemented by a range of materials available elsewhere within the university, including the Museum of Archaeology and the Oriental Museum (see links at the bottom of the page).

Sleep Lab

The Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, directed by Professor Helen Ball and based at Queens’ Campus, is home to a team of researchers who investigate the behaviour and physiology of infant, child and adult sleep, night-time parenting, infant feeding, and other infant and child health issues. The Sleep Lab houses integrated state of the art video and physiology monitoring equipment and was refurbished and upgraded in 2010.

Students of all levels are actively involved in Sleep Lab projects, from undergraduates to PhD, and over the past 10 years have provided research opportunities for over 80 volunteers, interns, and research associates. Find out more about the research-life of the Sleep Lab.

Anthropology Field Station in South Africa

The Anthropology Field Station provides a permanent base for Dr Russell Hill’s Primate & Predator Project based within the Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa. This unique facility provides office facilities, living space and 12 accommodation units for undergraduates, postgraduates, staff and volunteers engaged in research on the project.

The field station also hosts the Anthropology Field Course each year for undergraduate students. Research at the field station focusses on habituated groups of chacma baboons, vervet monkeys and samango monkeys and understanding the interactions these species have with the local predator community, particularly leopards and eagles, and the conservation implications of these interactions. Equipment and facilities on site include computers, handheld data collection units, camera traps, high definition camcorders, GPS and VHF telemetry, and microscopes for dietary analysis. Contact Dr Russell Hill for further details of the Anthropology Field Station.

Physical Activity Lab

The Physical Activity Lab, run by Dr Tessa Pollard, holds equipment for monitoring physical activity in people going about their everyday lives, from accelerometers to GPS devices. Sedentary lifestyles pose one of the key threats to health in many populations and the Physical Activity Lab focuses on understanding how and why activity levels differ across different groups. Current research uses mixed quantitative and qualitative methods and focuses on activity in migrant populations in the UK and in hunter-gatherers in Africa.

Durham Ecology and Endocrinology Laboratory

The Durham Ecology and Endocrinology Laboratory, run by Professor Gillian Bentley, was set up in 2009 to measure biological markers in human samples in relation to health/disease, population well being, human behaviour and/or environment. This is done using human saliva, blood, or urine samples. Hormones of particular interest include cortisol, testosterone, progesterone, oestradiol, and DHEAS, as well as immunity markers (C-reactive protein) in saliva. This purpose-built facility includes fridge and freezer storage and is fully equipped to process samples and perform enzyme linked immuno-absorbent (ELISA) assays. Students from all degree-levels (undergraduate and postgraduate) have been working on various projects in the lab. Find out more about Durham Ecology and Endocrinology Laboratory. Please note, currently this lab is in the process of being moved from it's former site to Durham City campus.

Modern DNA Laboratory

Shared with the Department of Archaeology, the Modern DNA Laboratory houses equipment used to extract DNA from animal tissue, and for amplifying the DNA on PCR machines, running electrophoresis gels, and taking photographs of the results.

Bioinformatics Laboratory

The Bioinformatics Laboratory is one of the best shape analysis laboratories in the country, providing data collecting and analytical facilities for all aspects of morphometric research. Equipment includes 3D digitisers, scanners and microscopes, as well as the computers needed for 2D data acquisition and analysis of both 2D and 3D data. The laboratory also houses the analytical facilities for the Modern DNA laboratory.

Additional Resources

As well as these dedicated facilities within the Department of Anthropology, staff and students also make use of the rich and varied resources available across Durham University as a whole. These include: