Barbara is an assistant Professor in Archaeological Science with the MARI group, working within the AMGC group, where she runs the Osteoarchaeological Laboratory
Previously she was a post-doctoral researcher on the CRUMBEL project with Prof. Christophe Snoeck
Human behaviour has always fascinated me. The diversity in people, with many different ideas, wishes, and dreams led to a great variety in behavioural patterns. This is why I wanted to study archaeology, to be able to reconstruct human behaviour in the past and to see this behaviour changing over time. I did my first master on the indigenous peoples of the Americas at Leiden University (NL) and looked at trade patterns by analysing decorative styles in pottery. I graduated in 2000, but realised that the true source of human behaviour lies hidden in the human remains. I had already gained experience with human remains during my field school in the French Antilles and my research stay in Mexico. At that time, it was not possible to study human remains outside the medical profession in the Netherlands. I left academia and started working as an entrepreneur advisor. In 2011, Leiden University started with a new master: Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology. I knew this was my moment to come back. I did the master and the topic of my research was vitamin D deficiency, since this disease is closely linked to behavioural choices. After graduating in 2012, I started working as a physical anthropologist on commercial projects. I excavated and analysed over 1000 human remains, burnt and unburnt, most of which I could use for my part-time PhD research that I started in 2013 at Leiden University. During my doctoral study, I used the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in six human skeletal collections from the Netherlands as a proxy for reconstructing changes in human behavioural patterns and assessed the influence of these changes on health. I really benefitted from the skills I developed during my years as an entrepreneur advisor. I built my network of useful contacts in the archaeological and medical field, which resulted in a fruitful collaboration with Prof. Brickley. I taught at Leiden and Groningen University, and undertook many forms of public outreach. I obtained a post-doctoral research position within the prestigious CRUMBEL-project (VUB) before finishing my PhD, that focuses on cremated human remains and mobility in Belgium.
Within the EOS CRUMBEL project, my expertise in on human remains, whereby I focus on improving sexing and ageing methods to increase the number of correctly sexed and aged individuals. This is needed to enhance our knowledge of past societies that practiced cremation as a burial ritual, but it is also application to forensic cases that involve fire.
Recently, I became part of the International Joint Research Group: From Survey and Excavation to Isotope analyses of skeletal remains from archaeological contexts, working together with the University of Ljubljana on cremated remains from Slovenia.
In June 2020, we received a grant for our research project that focuses on the preservation and completeness of human skeletal collections in Flanders, which will be used to form a database. In addition, ethical guidelines will be formulated.