Sabrina Agarwal, Professor

Closed (1) Osteobiographies and paleopathology in medieval Italy

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

Working with human skeletal and dental remains from archaeological sites, bioarchaeologists can help to reconstruct health profiles of past peoples. Teeth are invaluable source of information to physical anthropologists and biologists alike. Unlike the rest of the human skeleton, teeth are composed of enamel – the hardest substance in the human body. As such, human (and other mammalian) teeth are more likely to preserve in the archaeological and paleontological record. This, coupled with teeth’s dense information, makes it an ideal tissue to study from a bioarchaeological perspective. The disruption to homeostasis during growth can cause human teeth to develop permanent defects that become trapped in the enamel matrix, even into adulthood. One such defect is Linear Enamel Hypoplasia (LEH) – a band that forms often on the surface of teeth corresponding to systemic stress (e.g. malnutrition) or trauma during growth. LEH has traditionally been analyzed macroscopically with the naked eye or hand lens. Recent developments in software however allow us to examine LEH with greater accuracy using a microscope, permitting us to pin down the exact chronology and duration of these stress events during childhood. This project will analyze the dental molds from the medieval (AD 14-15th centuries) community of Villamagna, a large imperial Roman site approximately 72km southeast of Rome, to examine potential patterns in childhood stress and its implications for childhood and adult mortality in the past.

The undergraduate student will be trained in help to create the cast replicas of teeth representing 64 individuals so that they may be analyzed for microscopy.

The undergraduate student will be provided with an introductory background to human dentition and how teeth are sources of information for growth and development. The student will be trained in the procedures for creating casts of teeth from molds involving the use of resins and epoxies to make accurate and detailed replicas of teeth for microscopic analysis. This training is valuable for any student interested in anthropological/archaeological research, as well as biology, medicine, forensic anthropology and dentistry.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Trent Trombley and Sabrina Agarwal, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Applicants should be highly detail-oriented, organized, patient, and willing to participate in hands-on work. While this project does not involve working directly with human skeletal tissues, applicants must be willing to respectfully work with and around human skeletal remains. Knowledge of basic human (permanent) dentition is preferred, but not required. Skills with excel and detailed note-taking is also preferred. This project will require a time commitment of 3-6 hours/week.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs
Related website: https://anthropology.berkeley.edu/skeletal-biology-laboratory

Closed (2) Everyday life at Rural Medieval Villamagna

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

While there is good deal of historical and archaeological research on the later Middle Ages in Europe and more specifically in Italy, bioarchaeological studies of from Medieval Italy have focused primarily on high status individuals and particularly the ravages of the Black Death. There has been little large scale study of the biological signatures of growth, aging, and activity patterns in Medieval Italian skeletal remains. The study of differential patterns of everyday experience (as examined by multiple indicators of metabolic stress indicators, levels of activity, diet) across age, sex and status groups can tell us much about life experience and the formation and variability of social identity Middle Age Italy.
We are conducting a study looking at bioarchaeological markers of health and disease in skeletal remains excavated from the medieval cemetery of Villamagna in Lazio, Italy. The site is one of the largest Medieval cemetery in Italy, with skeletons primarily from the Late Medieval Period c.1350-1500.


The undergraduate student involved in this project will be trained in photography, data entry, analysis, and curation of gross anatomical data from 20 individuals from the site of Villamagna.

Students will be provided with background on medieval bioarchaeology and paleopathology. The student will be responsible for basic data entry, data processing, photography of paleopathological specimens. This is valuable training for students interested in kinesiology, physiology, skeletal biology, forensic anthropology, human osteology, functional anatomy, and the various anthropology subfields.



Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Katie Kinkopf, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Ideal candidates have some experience with or a high level of interest in bioarchaeology/osteology, biological anthropology. Working knowledge to Microsoft Excel and excellent attention to detail are required, and good experience and interest in basic photography. Coursework in anatomy, physiology, and/or biological anthropology/bioarchaeology is required (students must have taken Anthro1, and either 127A/B concurrently, 103, or human or comparative anatomy) The time commitment for this job is 3-6 hours/week.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Related website: https://anthropology.berkeley.edu/sabrina-c-agarwal
Related website: https://berkeley.academia.edu/SabrinaAgarwal

Closed (3) Comparing cortical bone quantity in ribs and metacarpals: A bioarchaeological case study of bone development, maintenance and loss from the Colombian Muisca

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

Bone is a dynamic tissue that is constantly responding and changing over the life time. What you eat, the physical activity you do with your body, your health and hormonal status affect bone development, maintenance and loss. Studies have demonstrated that in many populations bone loss corresponds to aging processes and changes in hormonal states, with older age females often losing more cortical bone than their male counterparts. Bioarchaeologists can study ancient populations to examine if these patterns of bone maintenance and loss existed in the past. Additionally, we can examine different bones within the same individual to see if they respond (maintain or lose bone) in the same ways (i.e. do rib and metacarpal bones show similar quantities of cortical bone within the same individual or does one site have more or less cortical bone than the other). This project will analyze skeletal materials from an ancient Muisca population who lived in the Colombian Andes between 1000-1400 AD. This project will study how bone quantity is related to age and sex within this sample, and will compare results for each individual between rib and metacarpal bones.

The undergraduate student involved in this project will be trained in histological methods for quantifying cortical bone in ancient human skeletal remains and will prepare and analyze approximately 60 samples.


The undergraduate student involved in this project will be provided with a background in the (bio)archaeology of the Colombian Muisca and skeletal biology topics related to the development, maintenance and loss of bone. The student will be trained in the procedures for preparing skeletal tissues for cortical bone measurements (cutting, resin embedding, slide preparation and mounting) and will be trained to measure each sample using microscopic and computer-assisted techniques. This training is valuable for any student interested in a career in anthropology, biology, medicine, biomedical research, forensic anthropology, and human osteology.
Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Melanie Miller



Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Melanie Miller, Graduate Student

Qualifications: To be a good candidate for this job you should be highly detail-oriented, organized, reliable, patient, diligent, and coordinated for delicate hands-on work. Applicants must be willing to work carefully and respectfully with ancient human skeletal materials. Knowledge of basic vertebrate and/or human anatomy, especially bone and tooth biology is very helpful. Skills with Excel and any statistical software (SPSS, JMP, R) would also be great. The time commitment for this job is 3-6 hours/week.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Related website: https://anthropology.berkeley.edu/skeletal-biology-laboratory
Related website: https://anthropology.berkeley.edu/sabrina-c-agarwal

Closed (4) American Eugenics Collection Practices and History

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

The American Eugenics Movement began to gain momentum during the late 19th Century. Many of the earliest geneticists were proponents of biological determinism, and hoped to guide the course of human evolution in the Modern Era. Reverberations of early American, British, and Nazi-German Eugenics programs can be seen in the research designs, results, and interpretations of human biologists, skeletal biologists, and forensic sciences.
This project investigates the collection practices of a prominent researcher S. Colum Gilfillan, who was deeply interested in his later life in lead poisoning and the fall of the Roman Empire. He was also a member of the Sociology Association and the Eugenics Society. This project examines the large lifetime collection of Gilfillan’s research through an examination of personal/professional correspondence, collection of archaeological human remains samples and data from the Roman empire, and his academic writing. This project will investigate the relationship between social prejudice and discrimination, skeletal biology, and science.


The undergraduate student involved will inventory human remain samples, tissue samples, and archival documents in the collection of S. Colum Gilfillan. The student will be trained in digitization methods (scanning, OCR) skeletal inventory, and data analysis.

Students will be provided with background on the American Eugenics movement, human remains/museum collecting, and human anatomy. Students will be trained in digitization methods, skeletal inventory methods, and best practices for historic collections curation. This project will appeal to students interested in medicine, skeletal biology, forensic anthropology, human osteology, eugenics, medical anthropology, museum anthropology, biological anthropology, and history of science.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Katie Kinkopf, Graduate Student, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Excellent candidates are highly detail-oriented, organized, reliable, patient, diligent, and have appropriate hand-eye coordination for working with documents, delicate human remains, and human samples. Applicants must be willing to work carefully and respectfully with human skeletal remains. Coursework in, or knowledge of basic vertebrate and/or human anatomy, human/bone biology, medical anthropology, or biological anthropology are strongly weighted. Applicant will need to demonstrate excellent aptitude for human osteological analysis and bioarchaeological research methods. Basic Excel skills required.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs