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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I received a First Class BA in Archaeology and MA with Distinction in Osteoarchaeology at the University of Southampton. My research focusses on the study of human remains, particularly from mixed and fragmented deposits, and the reconstruction of mortuary practices, ritual and ontology in prehistory. My interest in social theory in archaeology and the translation of personhood and ontologies from life into death was developed through my Masters thesis. I discussed the links between the scientific study of taphonomy, the processes which alter bodies after death and bone after deposition, and the theoretical concept of the assemblage as a group of diverse and lively entities and materials.

Whilst my Masters analysis focussed on an assemblage of Neolithic remains from a Welsh tomb, I am now expanding my research into the Mediterranean, studying a large collection of skeletal material from an underground hypogeum (the Xaghra Circle) on Gozo, Malta. The site was in use for over a millenia during the Late Neolithic, an important transitional period in Europe. This PhD aims to elucidate our understanding of depositional practices at the Xaghra Circle, questioning whether the elaboration of ritual architecture during this period is reflected through increased interactions with the dead. 

Other academic interests

I am interested in the study of funerary archaeology and burial traditions, particularly in prehistory. More broadly, I am concerned with developments in archaeological theory and the interdisciplinary links formed through these, particularly assemblage theory, posthumanism and relational ontologies.

Department: Archaeology
Supervisor: Dr John Robb
College: Magdalene
AHRC Subject Area: Archaeology
Title of Thesis: Modes of Burial in Late Neolithic Malta: Taphonomic Analysis of Human Remains from the Xaghra Circle and Xemxija Tombs
 Jess  Thompson