I am a biological anthropologist who specializes in bioarchaeology, human skeletal biology, paleopathology, and stable isotope science. My primary area of investigation is Andean South America, where I engage in contextually-based research focusing on the analysis of ancient skeletal and mummified remains, in order to explore broader anthropological interests including: the biocultural identification of violence and warfare, ritual activities, ethnic identity, mortuary complexity in ancient civilizations, and Andean prehistoric and Contact period social interactions.

I earned my B.A. and M.A. from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.  My Ph.D. degree was awarded from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I pursued anthropological post-doctoral research at the University of Western Ontario in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science. My research has been supported by awards from SSHRC-Canada, the National Geographic Society, Rust Family Foundation, Petzl Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Currently, I am an associate professor at UCF teaching both undergraduate and graduate level courses in various topics including bioarchaeology, human osteology, stable isotopes, and anthropological explorations of violence and death. I consistently bring students with me to Peru for field experiences in osteological lab activities and archaeological excavations.

Throughout this introduction I think it is pretty clear that I am passionate about my work both in terms of teaching and research. I knew from a very young age that I loved culture, history, and travel, and thus, anthropology was a natural combination of these things. But anthropology is so much more and can be integrative and exploratory. I approach my work holistically seeing that questions can be approached from many different angles and using various interconnected lines of evidence. I rely heavily on collaborations and look forward to meeting new colleagues.

Research Goals:

  • Osteological analysis of human remains from archaeological and forensic contexts
  • Andean paleopathology – patterns of biological health status, demography and disease in central Andean region of South America
  • Violence – skeletal trauma, massacres, human sacrifice
  • Identity – osteological patterns marking collective experience, biodistance using metric and non-metric analyses of skeletal characteristics, as well as mortuary treatment
  • Biogeochemical analysis of human remains – dietary and mobility reconstructions using individual and community patterns – work in Peru, Guatemala, and Croatia

Research Specialization

Research Links:

Laboratory for Bioarchaeological Sciences
Field work Opportunities
UCF Study Abroad program in Croatia (2022)

Current Research:

Túcume Biorchaeological Project – Skeletal Biology and Mortuary Variation

Life and Death at Túcume, Lambayeque: Monuments of Ritual and Sacrifice

Beginning in 2001 with my Masters research, I have been participating in ongoing archaeological research at Túcume, Lambayeque Valley (northern coast of Peru).  At this large multi-component archaeological complex (A.D. 1000-1532), we collaborate with site archaeologists excavating tombs from cemeteries, as well as identifying human and animal burials from within architecture. Work focuses in human osteology analyzing skeletal patterns in demography, morphology, diet, dental health, pathology, trauma, and biodistance (population history).

Chachapoya Bioarchaeology – Mortuary Patterns and Population Biohistory Project

The World Above and Below: The Living and the Dead in Chachapoya Mortuary Landscapes

Since 2004, I have been the physical anthropologist responsible for the analysis of human skeletal remains recovered from the archaeological excavations at the prehispanic site of Kuelap, located on the eastern slopes of the Chachapoyas region of Peru – department of Amazonas.  Frequently called a “fortress” this massive archaeological complex has been the focus of great interest and speculation for over 150 years. Recent archaeological, conservation and touristic investment have strengthened our ability to investigate recovered materials from the site and to assess the impact archaeology has on the local communities.

In collaboration with Peruvian and Spanish colleagues, we use vertical climbing techniques to explore how the location of mortuary structures reflects the nature of social relationships among different groups, their ancestors and the living landscape.  In a physically challenging environment the Chachapoya risked their lives to build elaborate tombs and regularly inter their dead on vertical cliffs. We explore innovative techniques to reach, explore, map, record, and analyze these mortuary structures. Osteological analysis of the recovered skeletal and mummified remains provides a window into the lives of the individuals who were interred and archaeological investigation of the mortuary structures helps identify the material and symbolic expression of identity.

Chachapoya Stable Isotope ProjectCHIP

This project uses the analysis of stable isotopes (C, N, and O) to explore dietary variation and population residential histories from regional sites, centers, and different mortuary contexts from Chachapoya. Similar to the work begun on the coast at Moche we are working to increase access to previously excavated materials with good provenience as well as testing less well provenience materials. Initial work looks at exploring sample preservation, range of variation, and establishing local baselines using local floral, faunal, and water samples.

The Chachapoya region stands as a dynamic and challenge environment for these types of analysis due to the nature of the climate and topography as the vertical landscape cuts ecological zones and larger continental precipitation and environmental changes have shaped the history of human ecology.

Moche Isotope Project – Stable Isotopic Analysis of Diet and Mobility

Landscape and Identity among the pre-Hispanic Moche on the North Coast of Peru

This investigation used the biochemical analysis of bone and teeth to reconstruct stable isotopic compositions of paleodiet and mobility to investigation population health and dynamics at several Moche occupations along the north coast, notably the complex urban center of Huacas de Moche.  The early state-like Moche society demonstrates clear evidence of hierarchical social differentiation through complex mortuary rituals. Evidence of human sacrifice found at Huacas de Moche indicates a long tradition of complex peri- and postmortem manipulation of human bodies.  Stable isotopes provide direct evidence of differences in dietary sources and preferences, as well as life history shifts in oxygen and strontium isotope values that allow us to interpret the patterns of population movement in the Moche center as well as identify possible origins of the sacrificed individuals.

This work was part of major on-going collaboration with The University of Western Ontario (Drs. Christine White, Fred Longstaffe, Andrew Nelson and Jean Francois Milliare) and Arizona State University (Dr. Kelly Knudson). It is funded in part by grants to Dr. White (SSHRC Research Grant no. 332337) and Dr. Toyne (SSHRC PostDoctoral Fellowship Award No. 756-2010-0739).

Croatia Bioarchaeology and Stable Isotope Collaborations – various collaborations

Avar Period Mobility and Dietary Change

This investigation used the biochemical analysis of bone and teeth to reconstruct stable isotopic compositions of paleodiet and mobility to investigation population health and dynamics at several Avar period sites along the Danube River in Central Europe.

This work was part of major on-going collaboration with the Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb (Dr. Mario Novak), as well as various other colleagues in Hungary and Serbia, which has been funding by the Croatian National Academy of Sciences.

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