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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Roberts, C.A. & Mays, S. (2011). Study and restudy of curated skeletal collections in bioarchaeology: a perspective on the UK and the implications for future curation of human remains. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 21(5): 626-630.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper considers the bioarchaeological study and restudy of human skeletal remains in museums and other institutions that curate human remains from archaeological sites. Papers published from 1990 to 2009 in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Paleopathology, American Journal of Physical Anthropology and International Journal of Osteoarchaeology were considered and contributions dealing with skeletal remains from UK archaeological sites were assessed. There were 258 papers published that matched these criteria and 352 instances when a skeletal collection had been analysed. Seventy-nine per cent of the papers were based on skeletal samples curated in five geographic areas, London, Bradford, Portsmouth, Canterbury and York; the two sites that were most used were those of Wharram Percy, North Yorkshire, curated in Portmouth at English Heritage, and Christ Church, Spitalfields, curated at the Natural History Museum, London. Reasons for this concentration of research are suggested. It is recommended that the ‘use load’ should be better and more evenly spread around skeletal samples in other geographic areas of the UK in order that knowledge is not limited just to a few skeletal collections, and that a centralised database of skeletal collections curated by different institutions would contribute to this aim.