Q&A with Bioarchaeologist Rebecca Gowland

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time 2 min read
Rebecca Gowland at work

Find out more about what it’s like to be a Bioarchaeologist in our Q&A with Dr. Rebecca Gowland, Senior Lecturer in Bioarchaeology at Durham University.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

First, I wanted to be an artist, then I realised that I couldn’t draw very well and decided to be a vet. That obviously didn’t work out either.

What has been your best archaeology moment so far?

Sitting under some lemon trees in sunny Crete, recording some skeletons from a Minoan tomb.

If you could go back in time, what age would you like to see first-hand and why?

I would like to live in Rome in the 1st century AD – it was the centre of the Empire and an important city – I would love to see all of the hustle and bustle first-hand.

 What is so interesting about skeletons?

Everything! They’re amazing! They’re an archive of an individual’s life and you can find out so much about how a person lived from their skeletons.

What’s the first thing you look at on a skeleton?

I try to take in the whole skeleton initially. I will lay out the entire skeleton and start to form some opinions and then I’ll record it systematically.

Why are you interested in workhouses?

I’m interested in childhood experiences in the past and I’m interested in the relationship between health and social status, particularly at the lower end of the scale. What was the effect of social marginalisation on the health of children and what lessons can we learn about child poverty today?

What has been the most useful recent invention for Bioarcheaology?

A lot of what I do is actually pretty low-tech. However, new biomolecular techniques are pretty fantastic and are enabling us to answer questions about health, diet and social identity that we wouldn’t have thought possible even 10 years ago.

What will archaeologists of the future be doing?

Wondering why on earth all these skeletons from the 21st century had bum and boob implants! It’ll no doubt be ‘ritual.’

Tell us an archaeology joke (optional)

Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the party? It had no body to dance with….groan…

Rebecca Gowland headshot
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