Dr Clare McFadden

Bachelors of Arts (Hons), PhD
Lecturer Biological Anthropology
College Arts & Social Sciences
T: +61 2 6125 5331

Areas of expertise

  • Biological (Physical) Anthropology 160102
  • Fertility 160302
  • Mortality 160304
  • Epidemiology 111706

Research interests

My PhD thesis focussed on refining and expanding palaeodemographic tools, with an emphasis on application to bioarchaeological samples from Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. The palaeodemographic measures which I have developed and finessed as part of my PhD research use age-at-death data to estimate fertility and the rate of natural population increase. The inclusion of infants and children aged 0-4 years has seen an increase in the accuracy of such methods and is a suitable adjustment for samples from Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and potentially other parts of the world where skeletal remains are well preserved and recovered. I performed rigorous testing of the new measures under a variety of sample bias conditions and found them to be sufficiently accurate for application in many poor preservation, or poor recovery, scenarios.  The application of these tools has reinforced overarching regional trends in population responses to major changes in Southeast Asia (the intensification of agriculture) and the Pacific (the first wave of human migration through the region).

Beyond my PhD research, I have developed a new measure of maternal mortality from the age-at-death distribution, which I believe will provide exciting new insights into the causes and consequences of maternal deaths in the past, as well as the female experience of pregnancy and childbirth. I have also expanded the research from my Honours year to contribute a book chapter to a new textbook on osteological sex estimation.

My current research projects seek to expand the palaeodemographic toolkit further, build a palaeoepidemiological framework for integration with the palaeodemographic tools I’ve developed, and application of both palaeodemographic and palaeoepidemiological techniques to questions relating to population growth, adaptation and resilience, social stratification and maternal morbidity and mortality.



I have a Bachelor of Arts (Hons, 2015) and a PhD in Biological Anthropology (2019) from the Australian National University. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA). In 2019 I was appointed Lecturer in Biological Anthropology in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology. Through supervised research, masters and honours students, I am developing a palaeodemography and palaeoepidemiology working group with a focus on population dynamics and health in ancient Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and in medieval and postmedieval UK.

I have undertaken consulting work in osteology for local archaeology consultancies and have provided training and workshops in human osteology to therapeutic service providers.


Available student projects

Centre for Palaeodemography and Palaeoepidemiology

I am looking to supervise and mentor research students with an interest in using palaeodemographic and palaeoepidemiological techniques to gain insights into past population dynamics and health.



Human Stress, Resilience and Adaptation in Ancient Ireland and Scotland

I am looking to supervise and mentor research students with an interest in applying palaeodemographic and palaeoepidemiological techniques to skeletal samples from ancient Ireland and Scotland. Such projects will contribute to Prof. Marc Oxenham's Global Professorship


Current student projects

Honours Projects

Gina Basile. Re-evaluating the Neolithic Demographic Transition.

Liv Beatty. Distribution of sub-periosteal lesions in infants.

Keelan Goodisson. Dental wear and age estimation techniques.

Britta Van Tiel. Cribra orbitalia in a Medieval Scottish population.

Alex Wulff. Age distribution of cribra orbitalia in a modern sample.

Masters Projects

Emma Spencer.

Tianyi Wang. Palaeoepidemiology of cribra orbitalia in an ancient Southeast Asian sample.

Past student projects

Bonnie Taylor. The Wisdom of Teeth: Using Dental Anthropology to analyse the Demography and Health of a Philippines Metal Period Population.


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Updated:  14 August 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers