Contact Dr Nivien Speith


Nivien is a broadly trained Biological Anthropologist and Bioarchaeologist and joined the CFI at Cranfield University in September 2021 as Lecturer in Osteoarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology.

She first read Classical Archaeology, History of Art, and Palaeoanthropology at the Universities of Berlin (FU), Leicester (UK), and Tübingen in Germany, where she received her MA degree. This was followed by an MSc in Forensic Anthropology, and a PhD at the University of Bradford. Her PhD, completed in 2012, systematically interrogated the bioarchaeological evidence for Early-Medieval populations in Central Europe and the concept of the warrior identity. Whilst at the University of Bradford, Nivien also gained teaching experience as demonstrator and part-time lecturer in Human Osteology and Palaeopathology. In 2013, she joined Bournemouth University as Demonstrator, Human Skeletal Collections Manager and part-time lecturer in Anthropology, before moving on to a full-time Senior Lectureship in Biological and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Derby in 2017.

Research opportunities

Nivien's research in the realms of bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology focuses on developing novel as well as refining existing methods of skeletal diagnosis in the areas of entheseal changes and skeletal markers of stress and habitual activity, and on the integration of palaeopathological with biocultural data towards an improved understanding of diagnostic criteria and their interpretation.

If you are interested in working in these areas of research, as well as in the wider fields of Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology, as a postgraduate student or research collaborator, please contact Nivien.

Current activities

Nivien's research bridges science and humanities and draws from biological anthropology and bioarchaeology and their application to forensic contexts, within a framework that combines funerary and social archaeology, human skeletal biology and palaeopathology. In particular, she is exploring identity in all its iterations from archaeological, biological, and socio-cultural as well as historical perspectives, focussing on patterns of skeletal health and activity, informed by clinical aspects of human skeletal biology. With the skeleton a mirror of health and our biocultural environment, Nivien contributes to the foundations of bioarchaeological analysis to bring people of the past to life and to provide identity and justice for those missing in historic and modern contexts.

Her current research on rare diseases and the Bioarchaeology of Neurodegenerative Disorders establishes a baseline for the palaeopathological analysis and diagnosis of disorders affecting musculo-skeletal function, improving our interpretation of skeletal changes in the context of biomedical advances, and making those affected by chronic conditions visible in our human record.

Her work has taken her on numerous archaeological excavations across Europe in various capacities, and to consult on forensic cases in Southwest England. She maintains national and international collaborations on bioarchaeological and forensic projects.

Nivien is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bournemouth University, Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, member of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology and the American Association of Biological Anthropology, former Board member and Newsletter Editor of the Paleopathology Association, and Fellow of the HEA. She maintains a strong interest in HE innovation and policy development, and currently serves as the CFI Research Forum Representative, after having held similar roles in both research leadership and global engagement capacities at previous institutions. Further, Nivien is an active member of the Advance HE Aurora Leadership Programme (2020-21 cohort).


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