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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor Rebecca Gowland

Professor in the Department of Archaeology

Contact Professor Rebecca Gowland (email at


I studied for my undergraduate degree at Durham and it was here that I first developed an interest in bioarchaeology. After graduating I completed a Masters degree at Sheffield before returning to Durham for a PhD in 1998. I then worked as a postdoctoral research assistant at Sheffield University before being awarded a prestigious Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge I began to collaborate with several members of the Classics Faculty on projects involving human skeletal remains from Roman Italy and Britain, which continues to this day. In October 2006 I was appointed as Lecturer in Bioarchaeology at the University of Durham. I am delighted to be teaching and researching human skeletal remains in the department where they first fascinated me. I was promoted to Associate Professor (Reader) in 2017.

At Durham I contribute to the Department’s world-leading Bioarchaeology Research Group. One of my key research strengths is the integration of scientific evidence from the skeleton with theories of social identity and embodiment. The Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains, co-edited with Professor Chris Knüsel (University of Bordeaux) and Human Identity and Identification, co-authored with Professor Tim Thomspon (Teesside University), exemplify this approach. Most recently I was PI on the British Academy funded project The Children of the Revolution, examining the impact of poverty and child labour on childhood health during the industrial revolution in Britain, and the Wenner Gren funded project The Infant/Mother Nexus in Archaeology and Anthropology. Both of these projects have been highly inter-disciplinary. I also lead an Impact Case Study based on my development and delivery of an innovative CPD course to national and international forensic practitioners. I collaborate with a number of international agencies (including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Centre for Missing Persons in Cyprus). I advise human rights lawyers and those working on transitional justice on international cases involving human skeletal remains.

I enjoy teaching at all levels; however, most of my teaching is on the MSc in Human Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology for which I am Course Director. I also supervise a number of PhD students. I have fulfilled a variety of management roles within the Department, including Deputy Head of Department, Bioarchaeology Research Group convenor and Chair of the Equality and Diversity committee. I am the Associate Editor for the world-leading archaeology journal Antiquity which is currently produced by the Department. I serve on the Department’s REF group and on a number of external committees.

Research Groups

Department of Archaeology

  • Bioarchaeology Research Group

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

  • Health, diet and living environment in the Roman Empire: the skeletal and funerary evidence
  • Investigating Morbidity and Malaria in Anglo-Saxon Wetland Environments
  • The Taphonomic Effects of Marine Submersion on Human Skeletal Remains

Research Interests

  • Care and disability in the past
  • Childhood health in the past and present
  • Health and demography in the Roman world
  • Human identification in forensic contexts
  • Human identification in forensic contexts
  • Skeletal ageing and age as an aspect of social identity
  • The history of malaria in England
  • The infant/mother nexus in anthropology and archaeology
  • 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


Authored book

  • Gowland, R. L. & Thompson, T. J. U. (2013). Human Identity and Identification. Cambridge Cambridge University Press.

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.

Chapter in book

  • Gowland, R. L. (2018). ‘A Mass of Crooked Alphabets’ The Construction and Othering of Working Class Bodies in Industrial England. In Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies New Ways of Knowing Anatomical and Archaeological Skeletal Collections. Stone, P. Springer.
  • Gowland, R. L. & Walther, L. J. (2018). Human Growth and Stature. In The Science of Roman History Biology, Climate, and the Future of the Past. Scheidel, W. Princeton University Press.
  • Gowland, R. L. (2018). Infants and Mothers: Linked Lives and Embodied Life Courses. In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Childhood. Crawford, S., Hadley, D. & Shepherd, G. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 104-121.
  • Gowland, R.L. & Penny-Mason, B. (2018). Overview: Archaeology and the Medieval Life-Course. In Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain. Gerrard, C. & Gutiérrez, A. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 759-773.
  • Southwell-Wright, W., Gowland, R. L. & Powell, L. (2016). Foundations and approaches to the study of care in the past. In Care in the Past: Archaeological and interdisciplinary perspectives. Southwell-Wright, W., Powell, L. & Gowland, R. L. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 1-19.
  • Gowland, R. L. (2016). Growing Old: Biographies of Care and Disability in Later Life. In New Developments in the Bioarchaeology of Care. Tilley, Lorna, Schrenk, Alicia & Martin, Debra Cham: Springer. 237-251.
  • Gowland, Rebecca (2016). Ideas of Childhood in Roman Britain: The Bioarchaeological and Material Evidence. In The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. Millett, Martin, Revell, Louise & Moore, Alison Jane Oxford: Oxford University Press. 303-320.
  • Gowland, R. L. (2016). That 'tattered coat upon a stick' the ageing body: evidence for elder marginalisation and abuse in Roman Britain. In Care in the Past: Archaeological and interdisciplinary perspectives. Powell, L., Southwell-Wright, W. & Gowland, R. L. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • Cataroche, J & Gowland, R. L. (2015). Flesh, Fire, and Funerary Remains from the Neolithic site of La Varde, Guernsey: Investigations Past and Present. In Cremation in Archaeology. Thompson, T. J. U. Oxbow.
  • Redfern, R. C. & Gowland, R. L. (2012). A bioarchaeological perspective on the pre-adult stages of the life course: implications for the care and health of children in the Roman Empire. In Families in the Roman and Late Antique World. Harlow, M. & Larsson Loven, L. Continuum. 111-140.
  • Gowland, R. L. & Garnsey, P. (2010). Skeletal evidence for health, nutritional status and malaria in Rome and the empire. In Roman diasporas; archaeological approaches to mobility and diversity in the Roman Empire. Eckardt, Hella Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplement 78: 131-156.
  • Gowland, R. (2006). Age as an aspect of social identity: the archaeological funerary evidence. In Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Gowland, R. & Knusel, C. Oxford: Oxbow. 143-154.
  • Gowland, R. L. & Knusel, C. J. (2006). Introduction. In Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains. Gowland, R. L. & Knusel, C. J. Oxford: Oxbow. ix-xiv.

Journal Article

  • Newman, Sophie L., Gowland, Rebecca L. & Caffell, Anwen C. (2019). North and south: A comprehensive analysis of non‐adult growth and health in the industrial revolution (AD 18th–19th C), England. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 169(1): 104-121.
  • Redfern, Rebecca, DeWitte, Sharon, Montgomery, Janet & Gowland, Rebecca (2018). A Novel Investigation into Migrant and Local Health-Statuses in the Past: A Case Study from Roman Britain. Bioarchaeology International 2(1): 20-43.
  • Gowland, R. L., Caffell, A. C., Newman, S., Levene, A. & Holst, M. (2018). Broken Childhoods: Rural and Urban Non-Adult Health during the Industrial Revolution in Northern England (Eighteenth-Nineteenth Centuries). Bioarchaeology International 2(1): 44-62.
  • Mays, Simon, Gowland, Rebecca, Halcrow, Siân & Murphy, Eileen (2017). Child Bioarchaeology: Perspectives on the Past 10 Years. Childhood in the Past 10(1): 38-56.
  • Newman, S.L. & Gowland, R.L. (2017). Dedicated followers of fashion? Bioarchaeological perspectives on socio-economic status, inequality, and health in urban children from the Industrial Revolution (18th-19th C), England. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 27(2): 217-229.
  • Gowland, R. L. (2017). Embodied Identities in Roman Britain: A Bioarchaeological Approach. Britannia 48: 175-194.
  • Andre Stewart, Nicolas, Fernanda Gerlach, Raquel, Gowland, Rebecca L., Gron, Kurt & Montgomery, Janet (2017). Sex determination of human remains from peptides in tooth enamel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(52): 13649-13654.
  • Errickson, D., Grueso, I., Griffith, S., Setchell, J., Thompson, T. J. U., Thompson, C. E. L. & Gowland, R. L. (2017). Towards a best practice for the use of active non-contact surface scanning to record human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 27(4): 650-661.
  • Roberts, C. A., Caffell, A., Filipek-Ogden, K., Gowland, R. L. & Jakob, T. (2016). ‘Til Poison Phosphorous Brought them Death’ A potentially occupationally-related disease in a post-medieval skeleton from north-east England. International Journal of Paleopathology 13: 39-48.
  • Arthur, N., Gowland, R. L. & Redfern, R. C. (2016). Coming of age in Roman Britain: osteological evidence for pubertal timing. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 159(4): 698-713.
  • Thompson, T.J.U., Szigeti, J., Gowland, R.L. & Witcher, R.E. (2016). Death on the frontier: military cremation practices in the north of Roman Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 828-836.
  • Gowland, R. L. (2016). Elder abuse: evaluating the potentials and problems of diagnosis in the archaeological record. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 26(3): 514-523.
  • Griffith, S., Thompson, C. E., Thompson, T. J. U. & Gowland, R. L. (2016). Experimental abrasion of water submerged bone: The influence of bombardment by different sediment classes on microabrasion rate. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 15-29.
  • Shaw, Heidi, Montgomery, Janet, Redfern, Rebecca, Gowland, Rebecca & Evans, Jane (2016). Identifying migrants in Roman London using lead and strontium stable isotopes. Journal of Archaeological Science 66: 57-68.
  • Booth, T., Redfern, R. C. & Gowland, R. L. (2016). Immaculate conceptions: Micro-CT analysis of diagenesis in Romano-British infant skeletons. Journal of Archaeological Science 74: 124-134.
  • Kendall, R., Hendy, J., Collins, M. J., Millard, A. R. & Gowland, R. L. (2016). Poor preservation of antibodies in archaeological human bone and dentine. STAR: Science and Technology of Archaeological Research 2(1): 15-24.
  • Kendall, R., Kendall, E., Macleod, I., Gowland, R. L. & Beaumont, J. (2015). An unusual exostotic lesion of the maxillary sinus from Roman Lincoln. International Journal of Paleopathology 11: 45-50.
  • Gowland, R. L. (2015). Entangled lives: Implications of the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis for bioarchaeology and the life course. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 158(4): 530-540.
  • Gilmour, R. L., Gowland, R. L., Roberts, C. A., Bernert, Z., Klara Kiss, K & Lassanyi, G. (2015). Gendered Differences in Accidental Trauma to Upper and Lower Limb Bones at Aquincum, Roman Hungary. International Journal of Paleopathology 11: 75-91.
  • Millett, M. & Gowland, Rebecca (2015). Infant and child burials rites in Roman Britain: a study from East Yorkshire. Britannia 46: 171-189.
  • Craps, D. & Gowland, R. L. (2015). The proximal ulna as an additional diagnostic feature of advanced rheumatoid arthritis. International Journal of Paleopathology 10: 26-30.
  • Newman, S. L. & Gowland, R. L. (2015). The Use of Non-Adult Vertebral Dimensions as Indicators of Growth Disruption and Non-Specific Health Stress in Skeletal Populations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 158(1): 155-164.
  • Gowland, R. L., Chamberlain, A. & Redfern, R. C. (2014). On the brink of being: re-evaluating infanticide and infant burial in Roman Britain. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 96: 69-88.
  • Penny-Mason, Bennjamin J & Gowland, Rebecca L (2014). The Children of the Reformation: Childhood Palaeoepidemiology in Britain, ad 1000–1700. Medieval Archaeology 58(1): 162-194.
  • DeBattista, R, Thompson, T J U, Thompson, C E & Gowland, R L (2013). A comparison of surface features on submerged and non-submerged bone using scanning electron microscopy. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 20(6): 770-776.
  • Redfern, R, Gowland, R & Powell, L (2013). La sante des enfants sous l'Empire romain. Dossiers d'Archaeologie 356: 80-83.
  • Henderson, CY, Craps, DD, Caffell, AC, Millard, AR & Gowland, R (2013). Occupational mobility in 19th Century rural England: the interpretation of entheseal changes. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 23(2): 197-210.
  • Gowland, R.L. & Western, A.G. (2012). Morbidity in the Marshes: Using Spatial Epidemiology to Investigate Skeletal Evidence for Malaria in Anglo-Saxon England (AD410-1050). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147(2): 301-311.
  • Thompson, C. E. L., Ball, S., Thompson, T. J. U. & Gowland, R. L. (2011). The abrasion of modern and archaeological bone by mobile sediments: the importance of transport modes. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 784-793.
  • Gowland, R. L. & Redfern, R. C. (2010). Childhood health in the Roman World: perspectives from the centre and margin of the Empire. Childhood in the Past: An International Journal 3(1): 15-42.
  • Gowland, R. (2007). Age, ageism and osteological bias: the evidence from late Roman Britain. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 65: 153-169.
  • Gowland, R. (2007). Beyond ethnicity: symbols of identity in fourth to sixth century AD England. Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 14: 56-65.
  • Lewis, M. E. & Gowland, R. L. (2007). Brief and precarious lives: infant mortality in contrasting sites from medieval and post-medieval England (AD 850-1859). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 134(1): 117-129.
  • Samworth, R. & Gowland, R. (2007). Estimation of adult skeletal age-at-death: statistical assumptions and applications. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 17(2): 174-188.
  • Gowland, R. & Chamberlain, A.T. (2005). Detecting plague: palaeodemographic characterisation of a catastrophic death assemblage. Antiquity 79(303): 146-157.
  • Gowland, R. L. & Chamberlain, A.T. (2002). A Bayesian Approach to Ageing Perinatal Skeletal Material from Archaeological Sites: Implications for the Evidence for Infanticide in Roman-Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science 29(6): 677-685.

Book review

  • Gowland, R. L. (2010). Palaeoepidemiology: the measure of disease in the human past. Medical History 54(3): 407-408.
  • Gowland, R.L. (2009). Children, Identity, and the Past. Edited by Liv Helga Dommasnes and Melanie Wrigglesworth. Childhood in the Past: An International Journal
  • Gowland, R.L. (2004). Review of 'Burial in early medieval England and Wales', edited by Sam Lucy and Andrew Reynolds. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 14(2): 145-147.

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

  • Gowland, R. L. & Chamberlain, A.T. (2005). Estimating age-at-death from the pubic symphysis: past, present and future. British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology 2003, Southampton, Archaeopress.
  • Gowland, R.L. (2004). The social identity of health in late Roman Britain. Thirteenth Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Leicester, Oxbow.
  • Millard, A. & Gowland, R. (2003). A Bayesian approach to the estimation of age-at-death from tooth development and wear in humans.
  • Gowland, R. L. & Chamberlain, A.T. (2003). A new method for estimating gestational age from skeletal long bone length. Archaeological Sciences 1999, Bristol, Archaeopress.
  • Gowland, R. (2001). Playing dead: implications of mortuary evidence for the social construction of childhood in Roman Britain. Tenth Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, London, Oxbow.