Oops I Did it Again…

oops i did it again memeI’ve left it a while since writing a blog post! Sorry the PhD took over my life for a while there (a bit more than usual!).

So what have I been doing? Well there has been some more data collecting, more writing, more hockey and the upgrade. For those of you who don’t know about the PhD process some universities conduct upgrades during the PhD. This is an examination type meeting where a couple of lecturers (most likely within the same department as you) question the PhD student on a piece of written work and assess whether they a) have a project that can stand and process onto a PhD and 2) that the student knows what they are doing?!

To be honest mine feels like a bit of a blur and it is quite an odd experience! However, I came through it and received some great advice that I will be using to refine, restructure and focus my project. I’m hoping that I’ll continue my PhD with a slightly new perspective and with the knowledge that it is going well (although I will have to remind my self that constantly. It’s the nature of the beast!).

Please note that for each university this process is different and has different requirements. When I talk about my upgrade it only relates to my experience. I highly recommend attending any training events relating to the upgrade and/or talk to your supervisors and fellow students who have gone through it. I was told that this is to help prepare you for the final viva so it is going to be tough – but worth it in the end! 

So what else have I been doing? Well more data collection for a start. I’ve visited a couple more museums including Cheltenham Museum and a small collection held by the University of Bristol Spelaeologial Society (which also hosts the brilliant cave Gazetteers website that I mention on my British Osteologial Collections page). But I guess the one I would like to brag about is the Natural History Museum! Yup I was lucky enough to carry out a weeks data collection at the NHM London.

The NHM is one of my favourite museums, I went there a number of times and now that I live near London I can go as often as I like. But it was such a great opportunity to go and use some of their collection in my research. The lovely Curatorial Assistant was on hand to help with any questions and queries and it was great getting to chat to her. I hope to see her again at BABAO 2017 where we both hope to present a poster. It was a privilege to work there and can even say that I met the curator of the human remains collections (who was also our first key note speaker at our SSSB conference – see previous post). In addition, as part of the agreement to collect data I carried out some basic osteological curation work on the specimens I examined by completing an inventory sheet of the remains. It may sound like a small thing but it will allow for easier and more efficient inventorying and assessment for future researches and curators – and hey every little helps!

What else is there…Oh yeah I’ve just come off from two excellent training days organised by the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP), who fund my PhD. These two days talked about life after the PhD, getting and applying for funding grants and things to consider when applying for jobs. Even though I am only in my 2nd year to was a great thing to attend. It means I can start thinking about what I want to do now, and start preparing my CV, skills and research so I can look for work/funding efficiently and productively when the time comes. It was also great to meet some of the other CDP students, it’s always nice to hear about their experiences and learn about their research. Through this I was asked if I would like to do a small presentation about object handling at another CDP event coming up in a few weeks (check out those networking skills lol!). They haven’t got anyone talking about human remains so I think I will take them up on their offer. Plus it will give me another chance to practice my presentation skills! I’ll report back in a few weeks to let you know how it went!

Anyway, I hope this gives you a little idea of what I’ve been up to. Next week I’m away in Barcelona (it’s the boyfriend’s birthday treat) and will come back refreshed and relaxed ready to hit the ground running with the PhD. Until then…adios!

 

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A busy few weeks …

Well hasn’t March flown by?! It feels like ages ago when I last updated my blog, but it isn’t really but in the last 2 weeks so much has happen. I have been to two more institutions to see their collections and the conference I was helping to organize took place. It’s been a great – but very very busy – couple of weeks!

So a couple of weeks ago I headed up to the University of Bradford to look at an Iron Age collection they have in their Biological Anthropology Research Centre. I was there for the whole week as it was a large collection but it was very productive. Whilst I was there I was told that there was also a Bronze Age collection and as I was able to get through the Iron Age sample quite quickly I had time to look at the Bronze Age stuff as well. So I got two collections for the price of one!

As well as the great collections at Bradford I have to talk about the amazing facilities they have there. I gather that a few years ago the Archaeology department moved buildings and were provided with brand new lab spaces, and I must say they are wonderful! They are spacious, well organized and very modern. It made collecting my data much easier. I hope that the Bradford students realize how lucky they are!

bradford facilities

Some of the facilities at University of Bradford. Image from twicopy.org/en/BradToothFairy

Oh and a bonus thing that happened whilst I was in Bradford. I met Prof. Keith Manchester. For those who don’t know much about bioarchaeology /osteology Keith Manchester is quite big in paleopathology – my key textbook I used during my undergraduate degree to learn about the subject was co-authored by him. He was so lovely and was kind enough to show me around some of the other lab and teaching spaces in the department. It was so nice meeting him and not at all scary!

So my week was in Bradford was over. As I said it was a great week and I got a lot done, but my travels were not over. The following week I was in Sheffield visiting the museum’s collection. Before getting onto that, however, just a quick side note. I’ve probably mentioned before that I play hockey (field not ice!) and this year my team has been going for promotion. Now this weekend (between my two trips) we had seen very important game – of we won or drew then we were guaranteed first play in the league a promotion. So there was quite a bit of pressure and I was very nervous before the game, but we played really well and won! We were so happy (of course!), we had confirmed our place at the top! It was amazing and I so pleased and proud of the team. We’ve had a couple of ups and downs but we got there in the end. And a special thanks must go out to our coach Chris. If you’re interested you can find the match report for the game here.

After a good week in Bradford and an amazing hockey game I was up in Sheffield visiting the museum’s stores. I had another successful week and saw many Bronze Age remains, and a few Neolithic. One thing that was annoying was the condition of some of the remains. Some of the skulls had been reconstructed using glue and plaster making them heavy and a few had their jaws glued together so I couldn’t examine their teeth. Now I must stress that this is due to a result of old collectors back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and not the museum. Collectors in the past did not seem to have that much interest in studying the remains but just collected them. For this reason many of these skeletal collections only possess the skulls, which is annoying for modern day researchers. I’m sure that there’s a project in there examining the history of collecting and the reason behind these practices but that’s for someone else! Regardless of these specimens there were plenty of others that were of use to my project and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sheffield, and the members of staff were brilliant.

Before moving on I must give a special thanks to Leigh Ann, the collection assistant, who was really helpful and great to talk to. Leigh Ann knew so much about the various collections held by the museum and I learnt a lot. It’s also a bonus that she recommended some great podcasts to listen to! Hopefully we’ll bump into one another again, maybe at the Society of Museum Archaeologists (SMA) later this year.Leigh-Ann and the other staff members were great, I highly recommend visiting Sheffield Museum and that you use their collections if you are a researcher!

After all of the traveling and data collection the weekend of March 24th offered something else that was very exciting –  the SSSB Conference! I have mentioned this in previous posts but SSSB is an inter-disciplinary conference exploring death, anatomy, attitudes to the body, mortuary practices and more, with SSSB standing for Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies. I am committee member for this and I can’t believe how quickly it came round but here it was!

SSSB logo

What can I say? I think that it was a great success! We had a wide range of speakers discussing everything from mortuary practices seen in archaeology to new approaches to viewing the remains of Pompeii to how should be approach medical students about the donated bodies. You can see a full list of abstracts of the papers and posters presented here to understand the complete variety of work. We also two great Keynotes by Dr Heather Bonney and Prof. Caroline Wilkinson discussing the history of collecting and the history and use of facial reconstruction. I even ran a workshop with another PhD student  introducing delegates to bioarchaeology and how to age, sex and identify pathology on human skeletal remains. All in all it was a great conference and I met so many interesting and wonderful people. If you are interested search for #SSSB2017 on twitter or check our twitter page @sssbconf. 

Over I got the impression that most people enjoyed it and found that it was quite different to other conferences they had been to. Hopefully, the delegates were introduced to new topics, ideas and perspectives that may provide new considerations for their own work. There already been talk of SSSB 2018 so fingers crossed that goes ahead and we can make the conference even better for next year!

Now I have a day of rest, with the in-laws visiting, then tomorrow it’s back to work!

 

An Online Database Providing Free Metrical Data on Human Fossil Teeth

A week or so ago I posted about an article which discussed the use of publishing skeletal data onto an online database so it is accessible to other researchers, which can be viewed here. Following from that I found a similar idea using fossil human teeth. Again, this data is free to access and includes a large data sample from the earliest hominins to modern humans. A short article which is attached to the database provides more information as well as the usefulness of sharing data online. It also discusses some problems which may be encountered when providing measurements for open access. These mainly include problems with taking and recording measurements which may differ from one source to the next.

I think that are research and interest increases in these areas the need for large and accurate datasets will be needed. However, in the field of human evolution the number of specimens that are currently available for research are small in number and scattered across the globe. The use of online databases, if regulated strictly and cited with care, could prove to be an important and useful tool for future research.

Find the online database for data on human fossil teeth here and the related article here.