Department of Classics and Archaeology

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Hannah O'Regan

Associate Professor in Archaeology, Faculty of Arts


Expertise Summary

I have very wide research interests. I have published on a variety of topics (see research summary) from the history of zoos to the dispersal of early hominins.

My current research interests are:

Hominin and carnivore evolution and osteology

Human-bear interactions from the Lateglacial onwards

Historic and prehistoric migration

Cave archaeology and the archaeology of the Peak District

The effects of pollution on human health

If you're interested in a PhD, have a look at my research pages and publications list and if you have a plan, come and chat to me. The main source of funding for PhDs within the department is the AHRC-funded M4C consortium (more info available on their website here).

note: I will be on research leave for Autumn and Spring 2018-19.

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

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… read more

Recent Publications

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 currently teach on:

  1. From forests to first farmers: Introduction to British Prehistory. This first year module gives a broad introduction to early prehistory, covering topics from the arrival of hominins in Europe to the end of the Iron Age. Environmental archaeology. This first year module covers a wide range of environmental data including, pollen, bones and snails. I teach the evolution of the Ice Age faunas and human osteology.
  2. In the second year, I teach basic 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. I am also teaching a new module Human origins that will provide an overview of the early African hominin record through lectures and case studies.
  3. The final year module Topics in Human Evolution picks up themes from recent publications through lectures and student-led discussions in which we explore issues such as early human dispersal out of Africa and the types of habitats in which our ancestors may have evolved. I also teach human osteology in Professional Bioarchaeology.

I am happy to supervise undergraduate and MA/MSc dissertation topics in:

  1. human evolution and palaeoecology
  2. cave archaeology
  3. burial archaeology and human osteology
  4. carnivores - their natural and cultural history
  5. exotic animals and the history of zoos

Current Research

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 animals 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 research interests are:

1) Human-bear interactions from the Lateglacial onward

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. I have three collaborative research strands:

1) 'The decline of the bear' is funded by an NERC/AHRC radiocarbon grant to examine human-bear relationships in Britain over the last 10,000 years. The first stage 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.

2) Bear-baiting. Bears were imported into England for bear-baiting in the early modern period (see O'Regan, 2016 for an overview). Despite this being a very popular 'sport' until the early 19th century (it was banned in 1835) there has been very little research on the topic. To change this, we're currently putting together a new integrating archaeology, archival research and performance workshops. There will be more on this project coming soon...

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.

To get research updates and other bear-related snippets follow the 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), and the habitat variability in potential hominin range sizes (O'Regan et al., 2016). We also looked at the potential drivers for vegetation change over time in the Kruger National Park using very high resolution (Quickbird, IKONOS and Worldview-2) imagery (Marston et al., 2017).

3) Cave archaeology and the archaeology of the Peak District

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 Cumbria and the Peak District, as well as running the AHRC-funded Upland Caves Network from 2009-2010. I am the director of 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., forthcoming). I have also published on Helsfell fissure (O'Regan et al., 2006) and the earliest Mesolithic human remains in northern Britain from Kent's Bank Cave, Cumbria (Smith et al. 2013). I'm now investigating cave archives from the Peak District in collaboration with 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 some lateglacial bears.

4) lead production and 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 we have one PhD student, Cati Fear, who 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.

5) 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 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. Two PhD students are currently working on related projects: Fiona Moore is examining human diet and movement in early medieval Suffolk, and David Osborne is examining human and non-human animal movement in Neolithic and Bronze Age Lincolnshire.

  • O'REGAN, H.J., 2018. Menageries and bearskin caps: experiencing North American bears in post-Medieval Britain. In: LAPHAM, H. and WASELKOV, G., eds., The archaeology and ethnohistory of bears in Eastern Native North America University of Florida Press. (In Press.)
  • MARSTON, C.G., WILKINSON, D.M., REYNOLDS, S.C., LOUYS, J. and O'REGAN, H.J., 2018. Water availability is a principal driver of large-scale land cover spatial heterogeneity in sub-Saharan savannahs Landscape Ecology.
  • 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: <>
  • 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
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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