Skeletal morphology

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Anatomy and Neuroscience
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Varsha Pilbrow +61 03 8344 5775 Personal web page

Summary Research on skeletal morphology focuses on change in the human skeleton in response to genetic drift, mutation, adaptation and interaction with the physical and biological environment.

Project Details

Skeletal Morphology

Craniometric and geometric morphometrics, as well as biochemical and molecular techniques are being used to study the biology and life history of skeletal populations from archaeological sites.

Physical anthropology of ancient populations

The skeleton, in particular, the cranium, limb bones and pelvis provide important evidence for reconstructing age, sex and stature of an individual. These are important life-history details that are relevant for understanding the physical, behavioural and cultural history of ancient populations. State-of-the-art techniques are being used to study these aspects of the skeleton from archaeological sites in the Republic of Georgia.

Excavating human remains from Chalcolithic locality, India

Archaelogical excavations at Samtavro, Georgia

Paleopathology and paleoepidemiology

To determine environmental stress factors and document trends in population health in prehistoric populations we are studying hypoplasias – macroscopically observable lines on the outer enamel of teeth linked to events of stress or insult in an individual’s life. We are also looking at other chronic and infectious disease and oral pathogens in order to study how human health has changed over the last 5000 years.

skull showing evidence of trepanation

Examples of trepanation, cribra orbital, enamel hypoplasia, porotic hyperostosis.

Intentional cranial modification

Intentional cranial deformation was practised in several parts of the world. We have several modified crania in our osteological collection and at the archaeological site in Georgia. We aim to use geometric morphometric techniques to study cranial shape modification in a comparative context in order to understand the behavioural practices of the people with modified crania and the cultural origins of the practice.

skull showing intentional cranial modification

Intentionally modified head

Reconstructing diet and migration patterns of ancient populations 

Stable isotopes provide important signatures of past ecology and diet. This project focuses on analysing isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and strontium from the archaeological region of Mtskheta, Georgia, to trace the changing ecological landscape, diet, migratory pattern and human-faunal interaction from the Bronze Age to the Medieval Period.

Genetics of ancient populations 

As part of an ongoing research project on the archaeology of the Caucasus we are studying the genetic diversity of ancient human populations from the Mtskheta region of Georgia. This will help understand familial relationships, migration and admixture patterns over a period of about 5000 years.

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Biomedical Neuroscience, Cellular Imaging & Structural Biology

Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Anatomy and Neuroscience

Research Group / Unit / Centre

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