The Skeletal Biology and Forensic Anthropology Research Group conducts research that relates to the study of ancient and modern human skeletal and dental remains. This includes sub-fields of biological anthropology such as bioarchaeology (osteoarchaeology), palaeopathology, forensic anthropology, and biology of the human skeleton.
Our research in bioarchaeology investigates how our ancient ancestors weathered large-scale transitions such as the adoption of agriculture and the rise of social inequality. We do this by exploring the evidence for ancient human behaviour, demography, stress, and disease that is captured in human remains from archaeological contexts. Our work is primarily focused on Southeast Asian and European populations.
Our forensic research focuses on developing new and more accurate methods for identifying recent human remains, estimating time-since-death, and approximating circumstances of death.
Our analyses combine macro- and microscopic technical approaches in the lab, survey and recovery in the field, and advanced statistical analyses.
Professor Marc Oxenham’s chief research focus centres on understanding ancient human biological responses to major lifeway shifts in Southeast Asia, Scotland, and Ireland. His work in Japan, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam (in particular) has been funded from a number of sources, with the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and Australian Research Council providing the bulk of support. Most recently, he was awarded a four-year British Academy Global Professorship which he has taken up at the University of Aberdeen. His secondary research focus is elucidating the processes, patterning and rate of soft and hard tissue decomposition in a range of media (surface, sub-surface, and aquatic) in order to develop more precise models for estimating human time since death in Australian conditions.
Dr Stacey Ward’s principal research interest is investigating the impacts that large-scale social transitions had on ancient human health, with a particular focus on how these impacts varied among marginalised peoples in prehistoric and protohistoric Southeast Asia. Additional research interests include exploring educational best practice in bioarchaeology; spatial analysis of bioarchaeological data; and repatriation of Indigenous human remains in Australia and New Zealand.
We are an active group with several PhD, Masters and Honours research students engaging in projects ranging from lab-based skeletal biology and experimental forensic anthropology to field based bioarchaeology. If you are interested in pursuing a research project in our lab, please contact Professor Oxenham (Marc.Oxenham@anu.edu.au) or Dr Ward (Stacey.Ward@anu.edu.au). Please note Professor Oxenham is currently based at the University of Aberdeen where he is completing his British Academy Global Fellowship (2020-2024).
Equipment and facilities
We have standard Osteology research and teaching lab facilities (Bio-Anthropology Teaching Lab Banks 239 and Bio-Anthropology Research Lab Banks 249) with anthropometric equipment, two fume cupboards, and a freezer, which are suitable for gross anatomical examination of human and animal model skeletal specimens. We house an extensive collection of human juvenile and adult skeletal cranial and post-cranial casts, as well as specimens representing a range of skeletal abnormalities.
Research Group members
Prof Marc Oxenham – Professor of Bioarchaeology, British Academy Global Professor
Dr Stacey Ward - Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Dr Jarvis Hayman – Visiting Fellow
Dr Christine Cave – Visiting Fellow
Chelsea Morgan – MPhil Student
Karen Cooke – PhD Student
Tahlia Stewart – PhD Student
Alejandra Henriquez – PhD Student
Don Matthews – PhD Student
Catherine Fitzgerald - PhD Student
Felicity Gilbert – PhD Student
Nicole McFarlane – PhD Student
Heloisa Mariath - PhD Student
Juliet Meyer – PhD Student
Lindsay Watson – PhD Student
Ellen Murphy – Masters Student
Previous Research Group Members:
Gina Basile – Honours Student
Liv Beatty – Honours Student
Keelan Goodisson - Honours Student
Britta Van Tiel - Honours Student
Alex Wulff - Honours Student
Emma Spencer – Masters Student
Tianyi Wang – Masters Student