Archaeological Science

Biological Anthropology and Bioarchaeology

While Archaeology is primarily about charting human change through time and space, the focus of bioarchaeology is on the biological dimensions of this process.  The human body is an important site of articulation between biological, material and social spheres and as a result, provides the primary database for bioarchaeological research.  In bioarchaeology, the inter-relationships between cultural and biological aspects of human societies in the past are examined chiefly through the analysis of human remains and their archaeological contexts.  

The Department of Archaeology in UCC has a tradition of teaching and research in this area that dates back to the late 1970s when the late Professor MJ O’Kelly fostered a multi-disciplinary approach to archaeological research.  This resulted in collaborations across a number of disciplines, including with the biological sciences.  Particularly strong links were established with the Department of Anatomy, and later with the Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Science.  The first dedicated academic post in Ireland in the field of bioarchaeology was established in 2001 and since 2004, the Department has offered the only taught MA in Human Osteoarchaeology on offer in the island of the Ireland. 

Current research in bioarchaeology and biological anthropology continues the strong fieldwork tradition in the Department, with recent and current excavations in historic period sites.  Research group members are also active in the analysis of materials from Irish prehistoric sites while the group also collaborates in a research project in Peru.

Research Staff
  • Archaeology and bioarchaeology of institutional confinement; bioarchaeology of early Ireland;  ‘Celts’ and Celticism
Current Postdoctoral Researchers
Current Postgraduate Researchers
  • Katherine Beatty (PhD)
    ‘Skin and Bone: the Face in the Archaeological Imagination’
  • Niamh Carty (PhD)
    ‘The Place of Violence in Medieval Ireland: Osteological Evidence for Interpersonal Trauma in Irish Medieval Assemblages’
  • Niamh Daly (PhD)
    ‘Til Death Do Us Part’: Female Kinship Ties in Early Medieval Ireland
Major Research Projects

The Spike Island Archaeological Project
The Spike Island Archaeological Project investigates daily life in a 19th century prison and the triangle of relationships between convicts, warders and the institution while also providing a means of investigating the roles of incarceration and transportation within British imperialist systems.  Ongoing research by Dr O’Donnabhain with funding from UCC and the Institute for Field Research.
Visit the Spike Island Project Page

People of Prehistoric Ireland
The People of Prehistoric Ireland project is a cross-sectoral and cross-border collaborative research project, funded by the Heritage Council and involves the collation of important baseline information concerning the excavated sites in Ireland that have produced human skeletal remains.  Dr. O’Donnabhain and Mara Tesorieri in collaboration with colleagues from QUB (PI: Dr Eileen Murphy, QUB).
Visit project website (external)

The Moqi Project
An investigation of an Inca period outpost in the Andes of southern Peru.  Dr O’Donnabhain and Niamh Carty oversee the mortuary component of this project which is carried out in collaboration with colleagues from University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, with funding from the Institute for Field Research.

The Timoleague Project
The investigation of the site of a putative leper hospital uncovered the remains of a medieval forge associated with a 12th century Cistercian monastery.  The folk memory of the monastic association contributed to the sites later use as a burial ground.  Directed by Dr O’Donnabhain with funding from UCC and University of California, Los Angeles.

Publications (2008-present)


  • M. Lozada and B. O’Donnabhain. (eds) 2013.  The Dead Tell Tales.  Los Angeles.
  • O’Donnabhain, B. and M.C. Lozada (eds). 2014. Archaeological Human Remains: Global Perspectives.  New York.
  • R. Pinhasi and J. Stock. (eds) 2011.  Human Bioarchaeology of the Transition to Agriculture.  Oxford.

Book Chapters

  • Beatty, K. forthcoming.  Bioarchaeology and Skin: Framing the boundaries of practitioner and material. In: Anusas, M. and Simonetti, C. (eds.) Surfaces: Contributions from
    Anthropology, Architecture and Design. London: Routledge.
  • Coyne, F., with contribution by L. G. Lynch. 2010. ‘Corbally, Co. Kildare: The Results of the 2003–4 excavations of a secular cemetery’, in M. Potterton & C. Corlett (eds), Death and Burial in Early Medieval Ireland, 77-90 Wordwell: Bray.
  • Daly, N. 2013. Written in Bone: isotopic research in bioarchaeology. National Roads Authority Monograph (proceedings from the National Archaeological Seminar 2012: Futures and Pasts: archaeological science on Irish road schemes) p. 63-75.
  • Lozada, M.C and B. O’Donnabhain.  2013. Introduction.  In Lozada, M.C. and B. O’Donnabhain.  The Dead Tell Tales: essays in honor of Jane E. Buikstra.  Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, Los Angeles, pp ix-xiv.
  • Lynch, L.G. 2008.‘Human Skeletal Remains from excavation in 2000’ in J. O’Sullivan and T. Ó Carragáin Inishmurray. Monks and Pilgrims in an Atlantic Landscape’, 280-5. The Collins Press: Cork.
  • Lynch, L. G. 2011. ‘The Human Remains’, in E. Bourke, A. R. Hayden, & A. Lynch (eds), Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry: The Monastery and South Peak. Archaeological Stratigraphic Report: Excavations 1986-2010, 373-390. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht: Dublin.
  • Lynch, L. 2013. ‘Cremated Human Remains from Newtown A/E’, in N. Bermingham ‘Prehistoric Life and Death’, 45, in N. Bermingham, F. Coyne, G. Hull, F. Reilly & K. Taylor (eds), River Road. The Archaeology of the Limerick Southern Ring Road, NRA Scheme Monographs 14. National Roads Authority: Dublin.
  • B. O'Donnabhain. 2010. Culture clashes? The human remains from the Wood Quay excavations. In: Sheehan J, and Ó Corráin D, editors. The Viking Age: Ireland and the west. Dublin: Four Courts Press. p 271-282.
  • B. O'Donnabhain. 2010. The human remains from Tintern Abbey. In: Lynch A, editor. Tintern Abbey, Co Wexford: Cistercians and Colcloughs, Excavations 1982-2007, Archaeological Monograph Series: 5. Dublin: Government Publications Office. p 105-125.
  • B. O'Donnabhain. 2011. The social lives of severed heads: skull collection and display in medieval and early modern Ireland. In: Bonogofsky M, editor. The Bioarchaeology of the Human Head: decapitation, decoration and deformation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • O’Donnabhain, B. and B. Hallgrímsson.  2013. Immigrant and indigenous: colonial encounters in Early Historic Ireland.  In Lozada, M.C. and B. O’Donnabhain.  The Dead Tell Tales: essays in honor of Jane E. Buikstra.  Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, Los Angeles, pp 162-171.
  • O’Donnabhain, B.  The Human Remains.  in Cotter, C 2013. The Western Stone Forts Project: excavations at Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta.  Wordwell, Dublin, pp 189-196.
  • O’Donnabhain, B. and M.C. Lozada. 2014. To be or not to be: global approaches to ancient human remains. In Archaeological Human Remains: Global Perspectives.  O’Donnabhain, B. and M.C. Lozada (eds). New York: Springer, pp 1-12.
  • O’Donnabhain, B. and E. Murphy. 2014. The development of the contextualised analysis of human remains in Ireland. In Archaeological Human Remains: Global Perspectives.  O’Donnabhain, B. and M.C. Lozada (eds). New York: Springer, pp 139-154.
  • O’Donnabhain, B and M. Tesorieri.  Bioarchaeology.  In Lynch, A. Poulnabrone: An Early Neolithic Portal Tomb in Ireland, pp 61-86.  Dublin: Government Publications.
  • Pinhasi R. and Turner K. 2008. Epidemiological approaches in palaeopathology: practical, methodological and theoretical aspects. In Advances in Palaeopathological: Methodological and Biocultural Perspectives, Pinhasi R, Mays S (editors). New York: Wiley-Liss, pp 45-56.
  • Pinhasi R. and Bourbou C. 2008. How representative are human skeletal assemblages for population analysis and interpretation? Implications for palaeopathological and palaeoepidemiological investigations. In Advances in Palaeopathological: Methodological and Biocultural Perspectives, Pinhasi R, Mays S (editors). New York: Wiley-Liss, pp. 31-44.
  • Pinhasi R. 2008. The study of growth in past archaeological populations. In Advances in Palaeopathological: Methodological and Biocultural Perspectives, Pinhasi R, Mays S (editors). New York: Wiley-Liss, pp. 363-380.
  • Sikora M., O'Donnabhain B., and Daly N. 2011. Preliminary report on a Viking warrior grave at War Memorial Park, Islandbridge. In: Duffy S, editor. Medieval Dublin XI. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Referreed Articles

  • Beatty, K.(accepted) Archaeological Facial Reconstruction of a Female From Ballinderry, Co. Kildare. Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society.
  • Carty, N. 2013. Evidence for Cranial Trauma and Treatment in Medieval Kildare. Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society, 10, 46 - 76.
  • Carty, N. & Gleeson, P. 2013. Kingship, Violence and Loch Da Gabhor: Royal Landscapes and the Production of Authority in Early Medieval Brega. Ríocht na Midhe, 24, 29 - 72.
  • Carty, N. 2014 (forthcoming). ‘The Halved Heads’: Osteological Evidence for Decapitation in Medieval Ireland. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology UCL: Proceedings of EMASS 2012, 24.
  • D. M. Fernandes, Silva AM, O'Donnabhain B, and Pinhasi R. 2012. Dental microevolution in Portugese neolithic and modern samples using an alternative morphometric analysis. Anthropological Science.
  • K. Knudson, O'Donnabhain B, Carver C, Cleland R, and Price TD. 2012. Migration and Viking Dublin: paleomobility and paleodiet through isotopic analyses. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(308-320).
  • Lynch, L. G. and E. Reilly. 2011.‘Early Medieval Burials and Insect Remains from Kildimo, Co. Limerick’, Journal of Irish Archaeology 20, 65-76
  • Pinhasi R., Shaw P, Eshed V. 2008 Changes in the masticatory apparatus following the transition to farming in the Levant. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 135: 136-148
  • Spigelman, M. and Berger, L. and Pinhasi, R. and Donoghue, H.D. and Chaplin, S. 2008. 'John Hunter's post-mortem examination of George Grenville (1712-1770)' Bulletin of The Royal College of Surgeons of England 19 (10) :338-339.
  • Pinhasi R, Gasparian B, Wilkinson K, Bailey R, Bar-Oz, G., Bruch, A., Chataigner, C., Hoffmann, D., Hovsepyan, R., Nahapetyan S., Pike A.W.G., Schreve D., Stephens, M. 2008. 'The Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of Armenia: a preliminary chronological framework'. Journal of Human Evolution,
  • Spigelman, M. and Berger, L., Pinhasi, R.,Donoghue, H.D. and Chaplin, S. 2008. 'John Hunter's post-mortem examination of George Grenville (1712-1770)' Bulletin of The Royal College of Surgeons of England 19 (10) :338-339.
  • Pinhasi R, and von Cramon-Taubadel N. 2009. 'Craniometric data supports demic diffusion model for the spread of agriculture into Europe'. PloS ONE, 26 .
  • Knapp M, Rohland N, Weinstock J, Baryshnikov G, Sher A, Nagel D, Rabeder G, Pinhasi R, Schmidt HA, Hofreiter M. 2009. 'First DNA sequences from Asian cave bear fossils reveal deep divergences and complex phylogeographic patterns'. Molecular Ecology, 18 (6):1225-1138.
  • ler M, Baryshnikov G, Bocherens H, Grandal d'Anglade A, Hilpert B, Münzel SC, Pinhasi R, Rabeder G, Rosendahl W, Trinkaus E, Hofreiter M, Knapp M. 2010. 'Withering away--25,000 years of genetic decline preceded cave bear extinction'. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 27:975-978.
  • R. Pinhasi and von Cramon-Taubadel, N. 2009. Craniometric data supports demic diffusion model for the spread of agriculture into Eurpe. PloS ONE 26.
  • R. Pinhasi et al. 2011, Craniometric data supports a mosaic model of demic and cultural Neolithic diffusion to outlying regions of Europe. Proceedings of the Royal Society B278, 2874-80.
  • R. Pinhasi et al. 2012. The genetic history of Europeans. Trends in Genetics 26, 495-505.
  • R. Pinhasi et al. 2012. A craniometric perspective on the transition to agriculture in Europe. Human Biology 84, 45-66.
  • Tesorieri, M. 2013. Health in late medieval Ireland: the osteoarchaeology from Ballinderry, Co Kildare.  Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, 20, 129-148.

Other Publications

  • Lynch, L. 2009. ‘Osteological Report’, in F. Delaney ‘Archaeological Excavation Report E2444 – Mackney, Co. Galway’, Eachtra Journal 2, 172-364.
  • Lynch, L., P. Johnston & J. Kiely. 2010. ‘Cremains and Questions: Bronze Age Burial at Derrybane 2’, Seanda 5, 18-21.
  • Lynch, L. G. 2012. ‘Osteoarchaeological Report’, in F. Delaney ‘Archaeological Excavation Report 10E0117 – Sawpit Lane, Tuam, Co. Galway. Early Medieval Graveyard and Enclosure’, Eachtra Journal 16, 32-77.
  • Lynch, L. G. 2014. ‘Osteoarchaeological Report’, in F. Delaney, J. Kiely, & L. Lynch ‘Archaeological Excavation Report 10E0117 – Toberjarlath, Tuam, Co. Galway. Nineteenth Century Burials’, Eachtra Journal 17, 40-141.
  • Ó Donnabháin, B. 2009. Human Remains.  In The History and Archaeology of Glanworth Castle, Co. Cork: Excavations 1982-4 by C. Manning.  Government Publications Office, Dublin, p.116.
  • Murphy, E., B. Ó Donnabháin, H. Welsh and C. McGranaghan.  2010. INSTAR – The people of prehistoric Ireland, Phase 1.  Archaeology Ireland, 24 (1), 23-25.
  • Ó Donnabháin, B. 2010.  The cremation burial from Knockatreenane barrow, Co Cork.  In W. O’Brien, Knockatreenane and the prehistoric barrows of County Cork.  Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 115, 162-164.
  • Ó Donnabháin, B. 2010 Aghmanister and Spital, Co Cork.  Excavations 2009, Wordwell, Bray.
  • Ó Donnabháin, B. 2011. Various contributions in Cahill, M. and M. Sikora (eds). Breaking Ground, Finding Graves: reports on the excavations of burials by the National Museum of Ireland 1927-2006.  National Museum of Ireland, Dublin.  
  • Ó Donnabháin, B.. Aghmanister and Spital, Co Cork.  Excavations 2010, Wordwell, Bray.
  • O’Donnabhain, B.  2012. Dún Aonghasa: Human Remains, skeletal inventories, in C. Cotter The Western Stone Forts Project, Excavations at Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta, Vol. 3. Appendix 3, York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor].
  • Ó Donnabháin, B. 2012. Aghmanister and Spital, Co Cork.  Excavations 2011, Wordwell, Bray. 
  • Tesorieri, M. 2012.Regional Patterns of Health in Early Medieval Ireland: distributions of non-specific stress indicators (abstract). American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 52 (Supplement), 285.
Recent Postgraduate Research
  • Mara Tesorieri (PhD): Health in the Medieval World: Regionality and the Bioarchaeology of Ireland and Britain (2014)
  • Linda Lynch (PhD): An Assessment of Health in Post-Medieval Ireland: 'One vast Lazar House filled with famine, disease and death' (2013)
  • Clare Mullins (PhD): Bodies of Belief: ideas, materiality and the body as a site of social meaning (2011)
  • Ciara Butler (MA): Which Doctor: An Archaeology of Medical Intervention (2014)
  • Rebecca Martin (MA): A Paleoparasitic Approach to Bioarchaeology Examining Human Intestinal Nematodes & Their Place Within The Archaeological Record (2014)
  • Jennifer O’Donnell (MA): Embarrassing Bodies?  Voyeurism, manipulation and exploitation of corporeal 'difference' (2014)
  • Julia Vantrimpont (MA): Rage Against The Machine: structural and interpersonal violence in an archaeological context (2014)
  • Jane Wiegand (MA): A Methodological Study of the use of Photogrammetry and Articular Surface Area in Re-Associating Disarticulated Remains (2014)
  • Susan Cronin (MA): A Comparison of Trauma in Three Later Medieval Irish Populations (2012)
  • Tacy Kennedy (MA): Sex Estimation of Irish Archaeological Skeletons using Postcranial Metrics (2012)
  • Gereme Gaffney (MA): Understanding the Complex Development of Musculoskeletal Stress Markers in Medieval Ireland (2012)
  • Zoe Mc Hugh (MA): Standards for establishing age-at-death in infants and children (2012)
  • Fiona Mulcahy (MA): Prone burial in Ireland (2012)
  • Meghan O’Neil (MA): Scurvy in Irish Archaeological Populations (2012)
  • Philippa Barry (MA): All is Not Lost: interpreting looted remains of adult and child burials from Middle Horizon Peru (2010)
  • Niamh Daly (MA): Embodied Identity: bone chemistry of a Viking burial (2010)
  • Brenda Fuller (MA): Memory Enshrined: a study of Irish roadside memorials(2010)
  • Michael Gantley (MA): Burning Issues: cremation in Early Bronze Age Ireland (2010)
  • Stephen McLeod (MA): ‘Off With His Head’: a case for violence in Early Medieval Ireland (2010)
  • Liam O’Donoghue (MA): ‘What science is saying about Ireland’: The Dublin Anthropometric Laboratory and physical anthropology in Victorian Ireland (2010)
  • Niamh Carty (MA): The mortuary practices of a 19th century Irish cemetery: St. Annes, Shandon, Cork City (2008)
  • Yvonne Graham (MA): Deviant Bodies: An investigation of the burial of adults in cillíní (2008)
  • Matthew Lester (MA): The Walking Wounded: Osteobiography and the campained soldier (2008)
  • Jason Murphy (MA): A study into the prevalence of upper and lower respiratory tract infection in 19th century Ireland (2008)
  • Darren Regan (MA): 'Open the window and let me breathe'; The bioarchaeology of tuberculosis and its affect in 19th century Cork County and City (2008)
  • Catherine Sinnott (MA): A bioarchaeological analysis of the aging of foetal and neonatal remains from nineteenth century Ireland
  • Aileen Tierney (MA): Death and Commemoration: The Irish Travelling community (2008)
Seminar and Lecture Series

Please visit our Seminar/Lecutre Series page for details on upcoming talks being delivered by staff, student researchers and visiting speakers.

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