Dr. Barbara Veselka

I am a Post-Doc Researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel combining human cremations and inhumations. I did a Master in Archaeology of Indian America and a Master of Science in Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology at Leiden University. After that, I obtained my PhD in Human Osteoarchaeology also at Leiden University. My PhD thesis (D-lightful Sunshine Disrupted) focussed on vitamin D deficiency as a method for the reconstruction of changes in sociocultural practices due to industrialisation in 17th - 19th century Netherlands.

"Basically anything with human remains,
burnt or unburnt makes me happy!"

 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.