Anna Davies-Barrett

Research Associate in Human Palaeopathology

I am a specialist in the analysis and curation of human remains, with a particular focus on palaeopathology (the study of ancient diseases). I have previously worked as a researcher at the British Museum, where I analysed and helped to curate human remains from Ancient Sudan, and was later employed as a Lecturer in Osteoarchaeology and Later Prehistory at Cardiff University, before taking up my new role at the University of Leicester. 

My specific research interests include the study of respiratory diseases in past populations, with a focus on the effect of different environments and living conditions on respiratory health. This stems from the PhD I undertook in collaboration between Durham University and the British Museum, which investigated changes in respiratory disease through time in Ancient Sudan. The results from my thesis and subsequent research indicates that air pollution arising from arid and urban environments may have been particularly bad for respiratory health in the past, providing a historical perspective on a problem of increasing public concern today.

As part of the Tobacco Health and History project, I will be undertaking the palaeopathological analysis of human skeletal remains to determine the correlation between certain diseases and evidence for tobacco smoking in the past. This will include an investigation of conditions such as respiratory and metabolic diseases, cancers, and dental and oral pathology.


  • BA Archaeology and Anthropology, 2014 (University of Kent)
  • MSc Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology, 2015 (The University of Sheffield)
  • PhD Palaeopathology, 2018 (Durham University)

Key research interests

  • Palaeopathology
  • Respiratory disease
  • Infectious disease
  • Bone taphonomy 
  • Sudanese/Nubian archaeology 

Main publications

  • Davies-Barrett, A. M., Antoine, D., & Roberts, C. A. (2020). Respiratory disease in the Middle Nile Valley: the impact of environment and aridification. In G. Robbins Schug (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Climate and Environmental Change (pp. 122-140). Abingdon: Routledge

  • Davies-Barrett, A. M., Antoine, D., & Roberts, C. A. (2019). Inflammatory periosteal reaction on ribs associated with lower respiratory tract disease: a method for recording prevalence from sites with differing preservation. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 168(3), 530-542.

  • Davies-Barrett, A. M., Whiting, R., & Antoine, D. (2018). New insights into disease prevalence in two Medieval cemeteries from the Fourth Cataract. In S. Tipper & G. Tully (Eds.), Current Research in Nubian Archaeology (pp. 129-154). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

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