Department of Classics and Archaeology

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Hannah O'Regan

Associate Professor in Archaeology, Faculty of Arts

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Expertise Summary

I have very wide research interests and have published on a variety of topics from the history of zoos to human evolution (see research summary for more info).

My current research interests are:

  • Human-non-human animal interactions (particularly bears)
  • The effects of pollution on human health
  • Cave archaeology
  • Historic and prehistoric migration

If you're interested in studying for a PhD on any of these topics, have a look at my research pages and publications list (the most up-to-date list is on Googlescholar), and then contact me to have a chat. The main source of funding for PhDs within the department is the AHRC-funded M4C consortium (more info available on their website here).

Teaching Summary

I thoroughly enjoy teaching and believe it to be important. Every lecture is a performance, and it's unlikely to be the same show twice. I also very strongly feel that teaching and research go… read more

Research Summary

For a full and up-to-date list of my publications, please visit my Google Scholar account.

My question-driven research is diverse and multi-disciplinary. I have many collaborators in the UK and overseas, and we are working on a wide variety of projects. Past work has included studying the lions, leopard and dogs from the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London, detailed studies of large carnivore morphology (both extinct and extant (e.g. O'Regan, 2018; Cohen et al., 2019)), non-human primates (e.g. Elton & O'Regan, 2014) and numerous papers on early hominin palaeoecology and dispersal (e.g. Dennell et al. 2014; O'Regan et al., 2016).

My current funded research projects are:

  • Box Office Bears: Animal baiting in early modern England (PI). AHRC standard grant, in collaboration with Co-Is Andy Kesson (Roehampton) and Greger Larson (Oxford).
  • The decline of the bear: tracing the extinction of Britain's largest carnivore (PI). NERC NEIF radiocarbon grant, in collaboration with Thibaut Deviese (CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence).
  • Mobile merchants: A multi-isotope study of human movement and diet in Middle Saxon East Anglia (PI). NERC NEIF isotope grant to support the PhD project of Fiona Moore.
  • The Yorkshire Dales: Last land of the Lynx? (PI). BCRA small grant for radiocarbon dating.
  • Resolving the 'Problem of the Peak District': determining why the Sr biosphere map and archaeological tooth data do not match (PI). NERC NEIF isotope grant in collaboration with Prof Jane Evans (BGS) and Prof. Dave Wilkinson (Lincoln).

Selected Publications

  • O'REGAN, H.J., BLAND, K.P., EVANS, J.E., HOLMES, M., MCLEOD, K., PHILPOTT, R., SMITH, I.R. and WILKINSON, D.M., 2020. Rural life, Roman ways? Examination of late Iron Age to late Romano-British burial practice and mobility at Dog Hole Cave, Cumbria Britannia. 51,
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2020. Menageries and Bearskin caps: experiencing North American bears in postmedieval Britain. In: LAPHAM, H.A. and WASELKOV, G.A., eds., Bears: archaeological and ethnohistorical perspectives in native eastern north America University of Florida Press. 256-270
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2016. Shakespeare's competition: the grizzly world of British bear-baiting The Conversation. Available at: <http://theconversation.com/shakespeares-competition-the-grisly-world-of-british-bear-baiting-55475>

I thoroughly enjoy teaching and believe it to be important. Every lecture is a performance, and it's unlikely to be the same show twice. I also very strongly feel that teaching and research go together - there is no point in finding out things through research and then keeping it secret!

I'm looking forward to the challenges of teaching online (if it is necessary) - I've got some ideas on how to keep things interesting!

I currently teach on:

  1. Understanding the Past I and II. These core first years modules give an overview of the core principles and skills in archaeology, including surveying, excavation, dating and studying artefacts and ecofacts (plants, bones and sediments).
  2. In the second and final year, I teach human osteology through lectures and practicals in the module Archaeologist Detective: investigating the dead. These lectures provide the background for potential dissertation topics in the final year.
  3. I also teach Human Osteology - an entire module examining what we can learn from skeletons and human burial practice. This includes a fieldtrip to the Nottingham General Cemetery.

I am happy to supervise undergraduate and MRes dissertation topics in:

  1. cave archaeology
  2. burial archaeology and human osteology
  3. human and (non-human)-animal interactions
  4. exotic animals and the history of zoos
  5. human evolution and palaeoecology

Past Research

Human evolution and palaeoecology

Much of my earlier research has been on human evolution and hominin palaeoecology (see publications list). I have also been studying the carnivores that lived alongside our ancestors - the most recent publications are on the big cats and mongooses from Cooper's Cave in South Africa (O'Regan & Steininger, 2017; Cohen et al., 2019).

In broader palaeoecological terms, I have focussed, through the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'Quantifying the Mosaic: testing modern analogues for African palaeoenvironments', on the distribution of modern vegetation types across Sub-Saharan Africa. We used remote sensing imagery at medium resolution (Landsat) to examine vegetation patterns across Africa, to determine where mosaic habitats were present, and their potential drivers (Marston et al., 2019). We also examined the history and usage of the term 'mosaic habitat' in human evolution (Reynolds et al., 2015), habitat variability in potential hominin range sizes (O'Regan et al., 2016) and looked at the potential drivers for vegetation change over time in the Kruger National Park (KNP) using very high resolution (Quickbird, IKONOS and Worldview-2) imagery (Marston et al., 2017).

Most recently we have linked elephant fecal isotope data with remote sensing of vegetation in the KNP to see if elephant diets provide a proxy for landscape characteristics (Marston et al. 2020).

Future Research

1) Human-bear interactions

As someone with research interests in large carnivores, cave archaeology and zoo history, bears are the perfect animal for me to study. Surprisingly, there has been very little research on their role in the cultural history in Europe, or indeed their remains from archaeological sites and natural deposits. There are two main research strands:

1) Box Office Bears: animal baiting in early modern England (BOB). Brown bears and polar bears were imported into England for bear baiting in the medieval and early modern period. Despite being a very popular 'sport' there has been very little research on the topic, but the AHRC-funded BOB project will change all this! In collaboration with Andy Kesson (Roehampton) and Greger Larson (Oxford) + 3 PDRAs (to be appointed), we'll be integrating archaeozoology, stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA, archival research and performance workshops to understand how the baiting economy worked and fitted into early modern society. O'Regan (2016) gives a brief overview of what we know so far.

2) The decline of the bear. This project, in collaboration with Dr Thibaut Deviese (Oxford), is funded by an NERC/AHRC radiocarbon grant to examine human-bear relationships in Britain over the last 10,000 years. The first step is to radiocarbon dates 22 bears of unknown date from cave and fen sites in England, Scotland and Wales. Once we know when bears were present, we can begin to integrate them into the wider archaeological story. Our current state of knowledge is summarised in O'Regan (2018) and was covered in an article by Helen Briggs for the BBC.

3) Best of neighbours? How did bears and humans co-exist in the last ice age? Both animals are large-bodied omnivores, and both utilised caves, so were they in competition with one another? In collaboration with Monika Knul (Winchester) and John Stewart (Bournemouth) we're comparing the human and bear records of the lateglacial to see what both species were up to.

Follow @archaeobears on twitter for the latest research updates!

2) Cave archaeology

Caves are fabulous places, somewhat 'other-worldly' and often beset with water and badgers (at least in the UK). I have worked on assemblages from a number of cave sites in South Africa, Cumbria, and the Peak District, as well as running the AHRC-funded Upland Caves Network from 2009-2010.

I directed the Doghole Cave Project, a reassessment of archival material and small scale excavation of a Romano-British burial cave near Milnthorpe in Cumbria (Wilkinson et al., 2011; O'Regan et al., 2020), which demonstrated continuity of late Iron Age practice through the burial of a partial horse and neonatal human infants, plus puppies, lambs, piglets and calves at the base of the site. Adult humans were buried at the site from the mid-Roman period onwards, and their grave goods indicated that urban practices of burial with beads, shoes and bangles had spread to rural societies by this point.

I'm now investigating cave archives from the Peak District in collaboration with UonClassArch students, Buxton Museum, the National Park and the National Trust. So far we have analysed and radiocarbon dated human and non-human remains to the Iron Age, Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon periods, as well as identifying lateglacial bears. Fear & O'Regan (2019) is the first publication from this work, which is based on the first author's undergraduate dissertation.

3) Lead production, pollution, and its effects on human health

Air pollution is constantly in the news, but there are many other types of pollution that affect people. One of these is lead (Pb) a so-called 'legacy pollutant' in the UK, because it is no longer mined. However, elsewhere in the world it is still very much a current-day issue. In a major collaborative project we are looking at lead production and pollution through time, linking in with the Ancient Ice Project. Currently PhD student Cati Fear, is working on the impact of lead in the medieval period, particularly considering the sources of lead for people who were not in mining areas, and the potential effects on their lives and skeletons. More info will be coming soon to the departmental 'projects' pages.

4) Historic and prehistoric migration

'Britain is a nation of migrants' this is an oft-heard saying, but to what extent is it correct? For some people it appears patently false, while to others it is a truism. As archaeologists, we have data that can consider population movements over the long-term. I am currently working with colleagues at the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry to examine population movements through time both on the national scale (see Migration narratives project) and local scales. For the latter, we have looked at strontium (Sr), oxygen (O) and lead (Pb) isotopes for Romano-British people at Dog Hole Cave and Caistor St Edmund, Iron Age people from Eldon Hole, early medieval people from Castleton and Wigber Low, and medieval people from Castleton. The results are all being written up for publication at the moment. PhD students Fiona Moore and David Osborne are working on related projects: Fiona is examining human diet and movement in early medieval Suffolk, and David is examining human and non-human animal movement in Neolithic and Bronze Age Lincolnshire.

  • O'REGAN, H.J., BLAND, K.P., EVANS, J.E., HOLMES, M., MCLEOD, K., PHILPOTT, R., SMITH, I.R. and WILKINSON, D.M., 2020. Rural life, Roman ways? Examination of late Iron Age to late Romano-British burial practice and mobility at Dog Hole Cave, Cumbria Britannia. 51,
  • MARSTON, CHRISTOPHER G., WILKINSON, DAVID M., SPONHEIMER, MATT, CODRON, DARYL, CODRON, JACQUI and O'REGAN, HANNAH J., 2020. 'Remote' behavioural ecology: do megaherbivores consume vegetation in proportion to its presence in the landscape? PEERJ. 8,
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2020. Menageries and Bearskin caps: experiencing North American bears in postmedieval Britain. In: LAPHAM, H.A. and WASELKOV, G.A., eds., Bears: archaeological and ethnohistorical perspectives in native eastern north America University of Florida Press. 256-270
  • COHEN, B.F., O'REGAN, H.J. and STEININGER, C.M., 2019. Mongoose Manor: Herpestidae remains from the Early Pleistocene Cooper’s D locality in the Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, South Africa Palaeontologia Africana. 53,
  • MARSTON, C.G., WILKINSON, D.M., REYNOLDS, S.C., LOUYS, J. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2019. Water availability is a principal driver of large-scale land cover spatial heterogeneity in sub-Saharan savannahs Landscape Ecology. 34, 131-145
  • FEAR, C. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2019. The archaeology and human remains from Frank i' th' Rocks Cave, Derbyshire: a reassessment of the evidence Cave and Karst Science. 46(3), 99-103
  • FOURVEL, JEAN-BAPTISTE, THACKERAY, JOHN FRANCIS, BRINK, JAMES S., O'REGAN, HANNAH and BRAGA, JOSE, 2018. Taphonomic interpretations of a new Plio-Pleistocene hominin-bearing assemblage at Kromdraai (Gauteng, South Africa) QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. 190, 81-97
  • CHRISTOPHER G. MARSTON, PAUL APLIN, DAVID M. WILKINSON, RICHARD FIELD and HANNAH J. O'REGAN, 2017. Scrubbing up: multi-scale investigation of woody encroachment in a southern African savannah Remote Sensing. 9(5), 419
  • HANNAH J. O'REGAN and CHRISTINE M. STEININGER, 2017. Felidae from Cooper’s Cave, South Africa Geodiversitas. 39(2), 315-332
  • O'REGAN, H.J., WILKINSON, D.M. and MARSTON, C.G., 2016. Hominin home ranges and habitat variability: exploring modern African analogues using remote sensing Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 9, 238-248
  • O'REGAN, LAMB, A.L. and WILKINSON, D.W., 2016. The missing mushrooms: searching for fungi in ancient human dietary analysis Journal of Archaeological Science. 75, 139-143
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2016. Shakespeare's competition: the grizzly world of British bear-baiting The Conversation. Available at: <http://theconversation.com/shakespeares-competition-the-grisly-world-of-british-bear-baiting-55475>
  • FOURVEL, J-B., BRINK, J., O'REGAN, H.J., BEAUDET, A. and PAVIA, M., 2016. Some preliminary interpretations of the oldest faunal assemblage from Kromdraai. In: BRAGA, J. and THACKERAY, J.F., eds., Kromdraai, a Birthplace of Paranthropus in the Cradle of Humankind Sun Media Metro, Johannesburg.
  • TURNER, A. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2015. Zoogeography - primate and early hominin distribution and migration patterns. In: HENKE, W. and TATTERSALL, I., eds., Handbook of Palaeoanthropology (2nd edition) Springer, New York. 623-642
  • REYNOLDS, S.C., WILKINSON, D.M., MARSTON, C.G. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2015. The 'mosaic habitat' concept in human evolution: past and present Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa. 70, 57-69
  • DENNELL, R.W., LOUYS, J., O'REGAN, H.J. and WILKINSON, D.M., 2014. The origins and persistence of the hobbit on Flores: biogeographical and ecological perspectives Quaternary Science Reviews. 98-107
  • ELTON, S.E. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2014. Macaques at the margins: the biogeography and extinction of Macaca sylvanus in Europe Quaternary Science Reviews. 96, 117-130
  • SMITH, I.R., WILKINSON, D.M. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2013. New Lateglacial fauna and early Mesolithic human remains from northern England. Journal of Quaternary Science. 28, 542-544
  • O'REGAN, H.J., COHEN, B.F. and STEININGER, C.M., 2013. Mustelid and viverrid remains from the Pleistocene site of Cooper’s D, Gauteng, South Africa Palaeontologia Africana. 48, 19-23
  • O'REGAN, H.J., FAULKNER, T. and SMITH, I.R., eds., 2012. Cave Archaeology and Karst Geomorphology of North West England Quaternary Research Association Fieldguide.
  • SMITH, I.R. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2012. Caves in context: a brief overview of archaeology in the North West. In: Cave Archaeology and Karst Geomorphology of North-West England. Quaternary Research Association Fieldguide.
  • CHENERY, CAROLYN A., LAMB, ANGELA L., O'REGAN, HANNAH J. and ELTON, SARAH, 2011. Multi-tissue analysis of oxygen isotopes in wild rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) Rapid communications in mass spectrometry. 25(6), 779-788
  • O'REGAN, HANNAH J., KUMAN, KATHLEEN and CLARKE, RONALD J., 2011. The Likely Accumulators of Bones: Five Cape Porcupine Den Assemblages and the Role of Porcupines in the Post-Member 6 Infill at Sterkfontein, South Africa Journal of Taphonomy. 9(2), 69-87
  • O'REGAN, H. J., TURNER, A., BISHOP, L. C., ELTON, S. and LAMB, A. L., 2011. Hominins without fellow travellers?: First appearances and inferred dispersals of Afro-Eurasian large-mammals in the Plio-Pleistocene Quaternary Science Reviews. 30(11-12), 1343-1352
  • WILKINSON, D.M., O'REGAN, H.J. and THORP, J., 2011. Dogs, scouts and cavers: a history of archaeological excavation at Dog Hole Cave, Haverbrack, Cumbria, North West England. Cave and Karst Science. 38, 125-130
  • O'REGAN, H.J. and HOWARD, J., 2011. Guest Editorial - Cave Archaeology Cave and Karst Science. 38, 108-109
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2009. Ice Age Bestiary. In: FAGAN, B., ed., The Complete Ice Age Thames & Hudson. 144-185
  • O'REGAN, H.J. and REYNOLDS, S.C., 2009. An ecological reassessment of the southern African carnivore guild: a case study from Member 4, Sterkfontein, South Africa Journal of Human Evolution. 57(3), 212-222
  • O'REGAN, H.J. and MENTER, C., 2009. Carnivora from the Plio-Pleistocene hominin site of Drimolen, Gauteng, South Africa. Geobios. 42, 329-350
  • O'REGAN, H.J., CHENERY, C., LAMB, A.L., STEVENS, R.E., ROOK, L. and ELTON, S., 2008. Modern macaque dietary heterogeneity assessed using stable isotope analysis of hair and bone Journal of Human Evolution. 55(4), 617-626
  • O'REGAN, HANNAH J., CLARE, TOM and WILKINSON, DAVID M., 2008. The nineteenth century excavation of Helsfell fissure near Kendal, Cumbria, and a reassessment of the surviving bone assemblage. Naturalist (Sheffield). 133(1067), 121-133
  • HUGHES, JOHN K., ELTON, SARAH and O'REGAN, HANNAH J., 2008. Theropithecus and 'out of Africa' dispersal in the Plio-Pleistocene Journal of Human Evolution. 54(1), 43-77
  • CLARE, T., O'REGAN, H.J. and WILKINSON, D.M., 2008. Greenwell’s lost barrow CLXXIV in Crosby Garrett parish. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. VIII, 1-17
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2007. Revision of the Carnivora from Member 5, Sterkfontein, South Africa, based on a re-assessment of the published material and site stratigraphy Annals of the Transvaal Museum. 44, 209-214
  • TURNER, A. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2007. Zoogeography - primate and early hominin distribution and migration patterns. In: HENKE, W. and TATTERSALL, I., eds., Handbook of Palaeoanthropology Vol 1: Principles, Methods and Approaches 1. Springer, New York. 271-290
  • TURNER, A. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2007. Afro-Eurasian mammalian fauna and early hominin dispersals. In: PETRAGLIA, M.D. and ALLCHIN, B., eds., The Evolution and History of Human Populations in South Asia Springer, Dordrecht. 23-39
  • O'REGAN, H.J., TURNER, A. and SABIN, R., 2006. Medieval big cat remains from the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 16, 385-394
  • O'REGAN, H.J., BISHOP, L.C., ELTON, S., LAMB, A. and TURNER, A., 2006. Afro-Eurasian mammalian dispersal routes of the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene and their bearings on earliest hominin movements Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg. 256, 305-314
  • WILKINSON, D.M., O'REGAN, H.J. and CLARE, T., 2006. Where are the non-human bog bodies? Journal of Wetland Archaeology. 6, 99-104
  • WILKINSON, D.M., O'REGAN, H.J. and CLARE, T., 2006. A tale of two caves: the history of archaeological excavations at Haverbrack and Helsfell in Southern Cumbria Studies in Speleology. 14, 55-57
  • O'REGAN, H.J. and KITCHENER, A., 2005. The effects of captivity on the morphology of captive, domesticated and feral mammals. Mammal Review. 35, 215-230
  • O'REGAN, H.J., BISHOP, L.C., LAMB, A., ELTON, S. and TURNER, A., 2005. Large mammal turnover in Africa and the Levant between 1.0 and 0.5Ma. In: HEAD, M.J. and GIBBARD, P.L., eds., Early-Middle Pleistocene Transitions: The Land-Ocean Evidence 247. Geological Society of London. 231-249
  • O'REGAN, H.J. and TURNER, A., 2004. Biostratigraphical and palaeoecological implications of new fossil felid material from the Plio-Pleistocene site of Tegelen Palaeontology. 47, 1181-1193
  • O'REGAN, H.J. and TURNER, A., 2004. The interface between conservation biology, palaeontology and archaeozoology – morphometrics and population viability analysis. In: LAUWERIER, R.C.G.M. and PLUG, I., eds., The future from the past: Archaeozoology in Wildlife Conservation and Heritage management Oxbow Books. 90-96
  • WILKINSON, D.M. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2003. Modelling differential extinctions to understand big cat distribution on Indonesian islands Global ecology and biogeography. 12, 519-524
  • O'REGAN, H.J., TURNER, A. and WILKINSON, D.M., 2002. European Quaternary Refugia: A factor in large carnivore extinction? Journal of Quaternary Science. 17, 789-795
  • TURNER, A. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2002. Assessment of size in fossil Felidae Estudios Geologicos. 58, 45-54
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2002. Defining cheetahs – a multivariate analysis of skull shape in big cats Mammal Review. 31, 60-65
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2002. The archaeology of zoos British Archaeology. 68, 12-19
  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2001. Morphological effects of captivity in big cat skulls In: Proceedings of the 3rd Zoo Research Symposium, Chester Zoo, 9-10/07/01. 18-22

Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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