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Department of Human Evolution

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 350
fax: +49 (0341) 3550 - 399

e-mail: streiber@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Helen Fewlass

Post-doctoral researcher

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Evolution
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: 0049 (0) 341 3550 360
fax: 0049 (0) 341 3550 399
e-mail: helen_fewlass@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Research Interests
Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

I am a postdoctoral researcher specialising in radiocarbon dating in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, where I also did my PhD under the supervision of Prof Sahra Talamo, Dr Bernd Kromer and Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin.

I am interested in the chronology of the expansion of Homo sapiens into and across Europe during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition and the subsequent Upper Palaeolithic. Obtaining direct radiocarbon dates from key fossils and artefacts is essential to establishing a robust, high-resolution chronological framework for this fascinating period of our history. However, very few bones survive from these contexts and many of those remaining are small or fragmentary. With the aim of minimising destructive sampling of precious archaeological bones, such as human remains, my doctoral thesis centred on methods and applications for radiocarbon dating very small amounts of Palaeolithic bone (<100 mg). This involved refining our collagen extraction protocol for very small bone samples alongside extensive testing of the accuracy, precision and reproducibility of the gas ion source of the MICADAS AMS for dating tiny collagen samples containing <100 ug carbon. I am now working on chronological questions at a range of prehistoric sites across Eurasia spanning the Late Middle and Upper Palaeolithic.

Curriculum Vitae

Professional Experience

Sept 2019 - presentPostdoctoral Researcher
Department of Human Evolution
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Radiocarbon dating of late Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites across Europe


Sept 2015 – Oct 2020PhD Student, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Evolution, Leipzig, Germany
PhD Thesis: Refining techniques for radiocarbon dating small archaeological bone samples.
Supervisors: Dr Sahra Talamo, Dr Bernd Kromer, Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin
Oct 2011 – June 2015    MSci Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
University of Bristol, United Kingdom
First Class with Honours
Master’s Thesis: Of milk and men: subsistence strategies of hunter-gatherers in southern Africa.
Supervisor: Dr Lucy Cramp

Scientific Skills and Methods

Laboratory experience
Extensive laboratory experience gained at the MPI-EVA, including refining the established collagen extraction protocol specifically for Palaeolithic bones of <100 mg; and in the Organic Geochemistry Unit at the University of Bristol, including extracting lipids from archaeological pottery and modern biological materials for palaeodietary analysis. Highly proficient in lab etiquette (including safety procedures) and a range of laboratory equipment (e.g. centrifuge, sonicator, freeze dryer, sand blaster, drills and other).

Using an Elemental analyser (EA), EA-isotope ratio mass spectrometer (EA-IRMS) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry to analyse the quality of bulk collagen extracts. Gas Chromatography (GC), GC-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and compound-specific isotope-ratio MS (GC-C-IRMS) to analyse lipid extracts (undergraduate and master’s research). 

Bayesian modelling
Analysis of radiocarbon data, including calibration and applying Bayesian modelling to refine site chronologies (OxCal software).

Archaeological Excavation
Excavation experience from Berkeley Castle (2012-2014, Gloucestershire, UK) and the Poulton Research Project (2013), including specific training in the excavation and treatment of human remains.

Teaching Activities

Nov-Dec 2020 Guest Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Mini module on methods and applications of Radiocarbon dating in archaeology for ‘Advanced Archaeological Science’ unit, involving designing and delivering virtual lectures, a self-led practical and examination.
2019 Lecture: Intro to radiocarbon dating, MPI-EVA, ‘PaleoenvironMENTAL research day’: outreach to earth science undergraduate students (University of Leipzig). 
2018 – 2019 Lecture: Introduction to radiocarbon dating, Palaeoanthropology Seminar Week, MPI-EVA.

Continuing Professional Development

2019Workshop: Leadership and working in multi-professional teams, Research Academy Leipzig
2019Workshop: EU grant proposal writing, Research Academy Leipzig
2018Workshop: Concept and Design of Scientific Posters, Research Academy Leipzig
2018Symposium: Gender (in)equality in research
Workshop: Negotiations in academia – aspects of gender 
Workshop: Unconscious biases 
      MPI-EVA PhD seminar series (co-organiser)
2017Course: Non-parametric statistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
2017Workshop: Discussing racial stereotypes in research
     MPI-EVA PhD seminar series (co-organiser)
2017Course: Intermediate R, MPI-EVA
2017Course: Introduction to R, MPI-EVA

Professional Activities and Memberships

2020 – presentJournal Club coordinator, Dept of Human Evolution, MPI-EVA 
2016 – presentMember of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution (ESHE)
2019 – presentMember of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA)
2019 – presentMember of the Paleoanthropology Society
2017 – 2018PhD Student Representative, Department of Human Evolution, MPI-EVA
2012 – 2013Staff Student Committee Representative, Archaeological Sciences, UoB

Public Engagement

The discovery and dating of the earliest Homo sapiens in Europe from Bacho Kiro Cave (described in Nature Ecology and Evolution 2020 & Nature 2020) generated global media attention, resulting in 130+ news articles (e.g. CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine, IFL Science, Der Speigel, La Vanguardia), TV and radio reports, podcasts and blogposts and was featured on the cover of Nature (May 21 2020). To disseminate the findings to a wide range of audiences I contributed: 

  • One-to-one interviews with journalists from international media outlets, including Science, New Scientist, The Associated press, American Scientist
  • Radio interviews for BBC Radio Berkshire (live) (UK) and MDR radio (Germany)
  • Television interview for RTS (Swiss News)
  • ‘Behind the paper’ blog post for the Nature Research Ecology and Evolution Community, informally describing the findings from Bacho Kiro Cave for the general scientific community (https://go.nature.com/3bnlDTE)
  • Virtual presentation for DigNation (free, online archaeology festival organised by DigVentures) describing the significance of the Bacho Kiro Cave results for the general public (>2400 members of the public registered) (https://live.digventures.com/dignation-2020/a/bulgaria/)


2016Student Presentation Prize (€1500)
ESHE 2016, Sponsored by the Journal of Human Evolution
2015Hancock Memorial Special Prize
Outstanding performance in the field of Archaeology and Geology, UoB



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