We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Dr Becky Gowland

Associate Professor (Reader) in the Department of Archaeology
Travel Approver, Department of Archaeology
Travel Reporter, Department of Archaeology

Contact Dr Becky Gowland (email at


I studied for my undergraduate degree at this very Department and it was during this time that I first developed an interest in studying human bones. On completing my degree, I spent a year working for various archaeological units; excavating sites of all periods and types from settlements to cemeteries. This work gave me the opportunity to excavate and analyse human skeletal remains from a variety of time periods. Having enjoyed this experience immensely, I undertook the MSc in Osteology, Palaeopathology and Funerary Archaeology taught jointly between the Universities of Sheffield and Bradford. It was during this time that I began to specialise in skeletal age estimation techniques and age as an aspect of social identity, and I returned to Durham University to pursue this subject at doctoral level. During the course of my PhD I became interested in the divide between science and social theory in archaeology and the implications of this for human skeletal analysis and funerary archaeology. This became the subject of a book The Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains that I co-edited with Dr Chris Knüsel (University of Exeter).

After completing my PhD, I became a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, where I worked on a project examining skeletal indicators of age-at-death and the palaeodemography of both catastrophic and attritional skeletal assemblages. On completing this post I was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, which I began in February 2003. Whilst at Cambridge I began to collaborate with several members of the Classics Faculty on projects involving human skeletal remains from Rome and this collaboration continues today.

In October 2006 I was appointed as Lecturer in Bioarchaeology at the University of Durham. I am very happy to be teaching and researching human skeletal remains in the department where I first became fascinated by them myself.

I currently teach human skeletal analysis at both Undergraduate and Masters level. I also co-organise and teach a short course in Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology with Dr Tim Thompson at Teesside University. Tim and I have recently completed a co-authored book Human Identity and Identification which examines the inter-relationship between social identity and the biological tissues of the body.

Research Interests

  • Health and demography in the Roman world
  • Skeletal ageing and age as an aspect of social identity
  • Social perceptions, care and treatment of the physically impaired in early medieval England
  • The history of malaria in England
  • The inter-relationship between the physical body and social identity

Teaching Areas

  • Bones and Human Societies
  • Identification and Analysis of the Normal Human Skeleton
  • Palaeopathology. Theory and Method
  • Themes in Palaeopathology

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2016: Editorial Board: Bioarchaeology International:
  • 2016: External Examiner: University of Sheffield:
  • 2016: Treasurer of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past:
  • 2015: Editorial Board: Science and Justice:
  • 2015: Roman Archaeology Committee Member:
  • 2013: External Examiner: Bounemouth University:
  • 2013: Invited speaker: Ancient Perspectives on Ageing Retirement and Health, Manchester:
  • 2010: Treasurer of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology:


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • Lewis, M. E. & Gowland, R. L. (2009), Infantile cortical hyperostosis: cases, causes and contradictions, in Lewis, M. E. & Clegg, M. eds, BAR International Series 1918: Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. Reading, Archaeopress, Oxford, 43-52.

Conference Proceeding

Edited book

  • Powell, L., Southwell-Wright, W. & Gowland, R. L. (2016). Care in the Past: Archaeological and Interdisciplinary perspectives. Oxbow.
  • Gowland, R. & Knusel, C. (2006). Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Oxford: Oxbow.

Journal Article

Related Links

Selected Grants

  • 2015: People and Place in the Kingdom of Northumbria AD 300 - 800 (£275742.00 from Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2008: One NorthEast Pathfinder: Body Location and Recovery in Forensic Contexts (£39,000)
  • 2014: Children of the Revolution: Health Inequalities during Industrialisation in the North of England (18th-19th Centuries) (£9396.60 from The British Academy)
  • 2010: Investigating morbidity and malaria in Anglo-Saxon wetland environments (£7485.00 from The British Academy)