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The University of Southampton
ArchaeologyPart of Humanities
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Dr Sonia Zakrzewski BA Archaeology and Anthropology University of Cambridge 1996, MPhil Archaeology University of Cambridge 199, PhD University of Cambridge 2001, Addison Wheeler Research Fellow Durham University 2001-2002

Associate Professor

Dr Sonia Zakrzewski's photo

Dr Sonia Zakrzewski is an Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton.

I am a bioarchaeologist, focusing on human skeletons. My interests are in biological anthropology, race, human diversity and variability, and the study of the human body to understand aspects of migration and mobility, diet, identity, disease, religious practice and social organisation in past populations.

I joined the department from Durham, where I was briefly an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow. My work there focused upon human dispersals through Egypt and across the Sahara Desert. More recently, I have been interested in the interplay between funerary archaeology, the mortuary record and aspects of bodily identity. This research has concentrated on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt groups and, more recently, on medieval burial grounds (both Christian and Muslim). With my graduate students, I have become interested in the bioarchaeology of religion and the activities associated with religious practice. This has implications for palaeopathology and studies of disease, and, within the skeletal collections here at Southampton, we have one of the earliest documented cases of leprosy in the UK.

I also undertake research in collaboration with staff in Bioengineering. We use computed tomography (CT) to get high resolution images of human bones and teeth, and then use these to understand other aspects of past lives, such as locomotor practices and dental treatment. Together with one of my graduate students, we have looked at an unusual Roman dwarf skeleton to evaluate her dis/Ability.  This type of work has been used to improve the development of dental implants and other prosthetics.

Until very recently, I was the Director of Admissions for Archaeology and all our combined honours courses. Before that I was the academic lead and director for Lifelong and Leisure Learning across the University of Southampton. As a result, I am extremely keen to develop outreach and the use of archaeology for widening participation and other educational purposes.

I am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In the past, I have served as the Vice-President of the Paleopathology Association (PPA), and on the organising board of the Society for the Study of Human Biology (SSHB) and the British Association for Biological Anthropology & Osteoarchaeology (BABAO).

Research interests

My research interests lie primarily in the analysis of human diversity and variability. By this, I mean understanding what it is that makes modern humans so similar and yet so different. My interests are therefore linked together by the human body and the funerary and mortuary archaeological record. My interest in human diversity developed from interests in human mobility and dispersal: are migrants different from sedentes? How can we identify migrating individuals within the archaeological record? Are there aspects of the body that we can read? As a result, I have been developing studies of human identity. How is identity expressed upon the human body? How plastic and malleable is the body? My research then links these aspects together with the funerary record to develop models of human ethnicity and identity. I am also interested in past human recognition of aspects of identity. Using palaeopathology and bioarchaeology, is it possible to develop models of disability and ability, and can we understand how past people viewed health and disease?

My research usually involves study of the gross morphology of the human body to then place individuals within a broader population context. This has primarily been working in Egypt. For the last few years, I have been working with colleagues from Berlin to excavate and analyse a Greco-Roman cemetery in the Egyptian delta. We are trying to situate the site within the broader Delta context and within the wider Greco-Roman world. In addition, I am working with American colleagues to study the diversity and variability of the population found buried in the cemeteries from New Kingdom Amarna. The site was occupied only briefly, during the reign of Akhenaten, and so provides a palimpsest of Egyptian ethnicity, health, disease, diet, occupation and activity.

Research group

Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins

Affiliate research groups

Osteoarchaeology, Classical Empires, Human Evolution, Chronology, Dispersals and Lifeways

Research project(s)

Identity and the life course in Islamic Écija

The Islamic necropolis at Écija, comprising more than 4,500 inhumations, is the largest excavated medieval cemetery in Iberia. The Islamic necropolis in Écija, in southern Andalucía, has been fully excavated by the Junta de Andalucía (Consejería de Cultura) with support of the local Imam.

Biological identity in ancient Egypt

Recent developments within bioarchaeology have enabled the role of the individual within archaeology to be better identified. In Egyptian contexts, these have included assessment of diet through stable isotopes (Thompson et al 2005) and DNA studies of modern (Krings et al 1999) and ancient human populations (Graver et al 2001).

Medicine in History and Society

Initially of interest to physicians from the time of the Enlightenment onwards, the history of medicine has gradually gained the attention of historians, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists, and other social science students.

A Joint Effort: Understanding Kneecaps Past and Present

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Book Chapters


PhD Supervision

I welcome the opportunity to supervise postgraduate student (PhD) research in the following broad bioarchaeological areas: human health and disease, identity and the lifecourse, ethnicity and the social construct of ‘race', diversity and activity, religion and religious practice.

I am currently supervising the following:

  • Identity, activity patterning and religious practice in Islamic Iberia
  • Archaeothanatology and the reconstruction of French and English Cluniac funerary practices
  • Palaeopathology and markers of occupational street in the spine
  • Variability, diversity and the palaeopathology of ear ossicles
Dr Sonia Zakrzewski
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield
SO17 1BF
United Kingdom

Room Number : 65/2227

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