It has dawned on me recently that I have been studying burned and cremated bone for over 20 years now. Which either suggests that it is a really interesting topic, or I’m a terrible researcher who has discovered nothing. Lets go with the former… My interest in this area began while I was studying my MSc at Bradford and developed into a PhD. From there, I have continued to explore the complex heat-induced changes that bone experiences when burned, and the effect of these on human identification.

As well as developing new methods, I have been fortunate to study a range of fascinating archaeological contexts, including Anglo-Saxon and Roman remains from the UK, excavations from Sardinia and Lebanon, and most recently, Herculaneum.

Away from burned remains, I have also spent time trying to understand diagenetic change and pathways in the skeleton and the impact of submersion on the body. We also had a few projects looking at the impact of decomposition on bacterial communities in the soil environment.


Check out some examples:

  • Martyn, R., Craig, O.E., Ellingham, S.T.E., Islam, M., Fattore, L., Sperduti, A., Bondioli, L. and Thompson, T. (2020) A re-evaluation of manner of death at Roman Herculaneum following the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius. Antiquity 94: 76–91.
  • Thompson, T.J.U., Gonçalves, D., Squires, K. and Ulguim, P. (2017) Thermal alteration to the body. In: Schotsmans, E. et al (eds.) Taphonomy of human remains: forensic analysis of the dead and the depositional environment. Wiley-Blackwell. pp318-334.
  • Thomas, B., McIntosh, D., Fildes, T., Smith, L., Hargrave, F., Islam, M., Thompson, T.J.U., Layfield, R., Scott, D., Shaw, B., Burrell, C.L. and Taylor, S. (2017) Second-harmonic generation imaging of collagen in ancient bone. Bone Reports 7: 137-144.
  • Ellingham, S.T.D., Thompson, T.J.U. and Islam, M. (2017) Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive X-ray (SEM/EDX): A rapid diagnostic tool to aid the identification of burnt bone and contested cremains. Journal of Forensic Sciences doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13541.
  • Thompson, T.J.U., Szigeti, J., Gowland, R.L. and Witcher, R.E. (2016) Death on the frontier: military cremation practices in the north of Roman Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 10: 828-836.
  • Griffith, S.J., Thompson, C.E.L., Thompson, T.J.U., and Gowland, R.L. (2016) Experimental abrasion of water submerged bone: The influence of bombardment by different sediment classes on microabrasion rate. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 10: 15-29.
  • Ralebitso-Senior, T.K., Thompson, T.J.U. and Carney, H.E. (2016) Microbial ecogenomics and forensic archaeology: New methods for investigating clandestine gravesites. Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal 2: 41-57.
  • Piga, G., Guirguis, M., Thompson, T.J.U., Isidro, A., Enzo, S., and Malgosa, A. (2016) A case of semi-combusted pregnant female in the Phoenician-Punic necropolis of Monte Sirai (Carbonia, Sardinia, Italy). Homo – Journal of Comparative Human Biology 67: 50-64.
  • Ellingham, S.T.D., Thompson, T.J.U., and Islam, M. (2016) The effect of soft tissue on temperature estimation from burnt bone using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Journal of Forensic Sciences 61: 153 – 159.
  • Thompson, T.J.U. (ed.) (2015) The Archaeology of cremation: Burned human remains in funerary studies. Oxbow Books.
  • Ellingham, S.T.D, Thompson, T.J.U., Islam, M. and Taylor, G. (2015) Estimating temperature exposure on burnt bone – a methodological review. Science & Justice 55: 181-188.
  • DeBattista, R., Thompson, T.J.U., Thompson, C.E.L. and Gowland, R.L. (2013) A comparison of surface features on submerged and non-submerged bone using scanning electron microscopy. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 20: 770-776.
  • Gonçalves, D., Cunha, E. and Thompson, T.J.U. (2013) Weight references for burned human skeletal remains from Portuguese samples. Journal of Forensic Sciences 58: 1134-1140.
  • Gonçalves, D., Cunha, E. and Thompson, T.J.U. (2013) Osteometric sex determination of burned human skeletal remains. Journal of Legal and Forensic Medicine 20: 906-911.