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Biogs Natural History Museum Scientists

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Professor Chris Stringer FRS, Research Leader at the Natural History Museum

Chris is a world leader in human evolution research. His early work was on the relationship of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, and he now collaborates with archaeologists, dating specialists, and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally.

Chris has excavated at sites in Britain and abroad, and directed the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project from 2001 until it finished in 2013. He is now co-director of the follow-up Pathways to Ancient Britain project. As well as many scientific papers, Chris has also written a number of books, most recently Our Human Story (2018) with Louise Humphrey.

Chris first excavated at Gough’s Cave, Cheddar 30 years ago and has been involved in studying material from the site ever since.

Professor Ian Barnes, Research Leader at the Natural History Museum

Ian focuses on the investigation of ancient biomolecules to resolve questions in archaeology, palaeontology, and evolutionary biology. His first degree was in Archaeological Science followed by a DPhil in Molecular Ecology. Subsequently he worked at Oxford, and held fellowships at UCL and RHUL. For the last 20 years he has been heavily involved in the development of ancient DNA analyses.

Previously, he has investigated how animals react and adapt to periods of major climate change, by looking at mammals from across Eurasia during the last ice age. More recently, his major focus has been on the role of adaptation and migration in the human settlement of the British Isles, and work on Cheddar Man is part of this.

He is an author of over 65 scientific papers on these, and other topics, with a focus on DNA recovered from museum materials.

Selina Brace, Ancient DNA researcher at the Natural History Museum

Selina’s background is based in biology, with her first degree in Zoology (UCL) followed by a DPhil (Royal Holloway) that focused on using ancient and degraded DNA to investigate rodent species.

She has since held several ancient DNA based postdoc positions and authored around 20 scientific papers. Prior to her current permanent position at the Natural History Museum she was employed as a postdoc by Ian Barnes (NHM) to work with DNA from ancient human remains to explore migration and adaptation in the UK from the Mesolithic (hunter-gatherer period) to the Medieval. It is from this work, in collaboration with UCL, that the Cheddar man data was generated.

Dr Silvia Bello, Human Behaviour Researcher at the Natural History Museum

Silvia graduated at the University of Turin (Italy) and completed two Masters and her PhD studies in human taphonomy in Marseilles (France) before arriving at the Natural History Museum in 2002. She joined the ‘Ancient Human Occupation of Britain’ project at the Natural History Museum in 2005 and since 2012 has been directing three projects dedicated to the understanding of prehistoric human behaviour.

Over the last twelve years Silvia has developed a new technique of microscopic 3D analyses of bone surface modifications. She continues to pursue her research in the evolution of human behaviour through the analysis of bone assemblages, aiming to recognise and interpret different expressions of human actions. These include hunting, butchering and feeding choices, production and use of bone and antler artefacts and the cultural modifications of human remains within funerary and cannibalistic practices. Her research has resulted in over 30 scientific papers.

Silvia has dedicated the last ten years to analysing the cannibalised bones of the earlier inhabitants of Gough’s Cave.

Dr Tom Booth, Postdoctoral Researcher, Natural History Museum

Dr Tom Booth is a bioarchaeologist who studies human bones. He specialises in assessing microstructural preservation, sampling for ancient biomolecules and interpreting analyses of ancient DNA (aDNA).

His work on the post mortem degradation of archaeological human bone has helped shed light on the varied ways in which British prehistoric peoples treated their dead, most notably finding evidence for Bronze Age mummification practices. For the last four years

Dr Booth has been working on a Wellcome Trust-funded British aDNA project at the Natural History Museum. His role involves travelling the Britain isles in search of relevant human bones to sample for aDNA, and interpreting the results in their archaeological context.