2019: The Year of TUBA

It’s only March and we already have so much underway, we’ve barely had a chance to write a post! After  such a busy 2018, we set ourselves a challenge to have an even bigger and better year of research. Looks like this resolution has managed to beat January and February! So, what have we been up to? Strap in tight!


After a rejuvenating Christmas break without too much belt size adjustments, Rhys hit the ground running with a trip to Vindolanda to scan more of their target practice crania. He expected just a couple more, but was surprised to meet a whole collection! It was a bit like a kid in a candy shop, just… definitely not so edible (please don’t eat archaeological bones!). You can read a detailed story about this trip featured in the Vindolanda blog posts. Rhys has just about finished building these scans into complete 3D models ready for the next stage – look out for some exciting developments here! Rhys has also been visiting the University of York to learn all about thin-sectioning bones in their microtome bunker.

A whole range of crania on offer here, with another six to come – Romans sure did do a lot of target practice!


Helga has been busy minding her microcosm study, and doing all she can to prepare for the proteomic part of her project with the opening of the National Horizon Centre in the next weeks (see below). This has included travelling to the York BioArch facility to monitor extraction procedures (thank you for having me!), training in liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, and finalising the non-destructive components of her leather analyses. All in all, these are busy times and the threat of a caffeine overdose has rarely been more imminent.


Can you believe it’s nearly a year since Aboli joined our team? She sure can’t, time has flown! Aboli has been working on the scanning electron microscope to image different types of wool fibres, creating a wool library as a reference for future studies. She is also designing ICP-MS protocols for analysing the water used for dyeing wools, ready for an intense second year of her PhD!

National Horizons Centre

The NHC is almost ready to open this spring; the architecture and research opportunities are truly spectacular! The PhD students that have visited are already planning for groundbreaking work to undertake there (including Helga getting passionate for proteomics, and Rhys figuratively drooling over the FARO 3D scanner). We have big news about the NHC coming soon – we shalln’t spoil the surprises and grand unveiling just yet!

The towering FARO 3D scanner inside the immaculate NHC


Even though it’s Winter (despite the recent summery moods), we’ve still been acing the conference game! Earlier this month, Rhys presented a poster and presentation on analysing and mapping archaeological soil at the North East of England Process Industry Cluster (aka NEPIC, a big science-in-industry conference). Next, Rhys, Helga and Aboli are preparing their posters ready for presentation at the United Kingdom Archaeological Sciences Conference in April. We’re far too excited for the sessions on biomolecular archaeology, imaging and chemical analysis, and biological anthropology!

Progressions and Reviews

Last, but absolutely not least, all three of our PhD students have been writing their annual reviews, ready to show off how awesome their work is. Aboli is shrinking her extensive literature review down for her first-year review, a 30-page mini-thesis. Helga is polishing off her dazzling report for her second-year review , and Rhys has cleared the exam for his second review (huzzah!).

And that about wraps it up for now! Until next time,


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