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.

I am interested in supervising MA, MSc and PhD students in the following areas:

Cave archaeology

The archaeology/ history of exotic animals and zoos

Human evolution and palaeoecology

Burial practices

However, I'm open to new ideas, so have a look at my research pages and publications list and if you have a plan, come and chat to me!

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), non-human primates (most recently Elton & O'Regan, 2014) and numerous papers on early human (hominin) dispersal (most recently Dennell et al. 2014).

My current research interests are:

1) Bears

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. This project is combining a number of approaches including material culture, skeletal, isotope and aDNA analysis, and archival research to examine how attitudes to brown bears (Ursus arctos) have changed through time. A particular focus at present is on bears and bear-baiting beginning with the fauna and documentary records of the Southwark baiting arenas (e.g. O'Regan, 2016). A second strand is looking at the natural history of bears in Britain, to see when they became extinct, and how this may have related to human activities. Many other topics are possible - if you have an idea for an MA or PhD project on this theme, please get in touch!

2) Human evolution and palaeoecology

A huge amount of data has been generated about our earliest ancestors (and their cousins), from anatomy, stable isotope analysis, archaeology and many other fields. While this is fascinating research, there have been few attempts to draw this information together to examine how early hominins actually lived. Building on my previous work, I am writing a book for Routledge, examining key themes (such as habitat use), in human evolution and highlighting new avenues for future research.

3) Landscapes

Linking into the themes of both bears and palaeocology, I have a strong interest in human (and hominin) use of landscapes in both Africa and the UK.

In Africa this has focussed, through the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'Quantifying the Mosaic', on the distribution of modern vegetation types across the landscape and comparing them with proxies from the fossil record. The first two papers have been published - Reynolds et al. (2015) and O'Regan et al. (2016) - and more are on the way!

In Britain, my landscape work is looking at Dovedale and Wolfscotedale in the Peak District, in collaboration with the National Trust. We are looking at the archaeological evidence from caves, which includes human burials, bears, and a coin hoard, to piece together the landscape history of the area from the end of the last ice age onwards. We aim to show how even apparently pristine landscapes have been altered for millennia, and provide a context for how they may change in the future.

4) 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, mainly in Cumbria, 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. I am also the co-chair (with John Howard) of the BCRA Cave Archaeology Group . My main research site is Doghole (e.g. Wilkinson et al. 2011), but 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 (Smith et al. 2013). We are now investigating cave archives from the Peak District (see 'Landscapes')

  • 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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