Marina Elliott (centre), PhD student in the Human Evolution Study Program at Simon Fraser University. Image used with the kind permission of Mark Collard.

**Marina Elliott was one of six scientists that made up the Advance Science Team on the Rising Star Expedition. Read more here**

Marina Elliott has form when it comes to fieldwork in extreme environments. Prior to the Rising Star Expedition she worked on excavations at Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, and at the northernmost archaeological site in the USA: Nuvuk on Point Barrow, Alsaka. “Seems I kind of specialize in ‘inhospitable’ environments!”

Elliott’s research specialism is the archaeology and anatomy of the human skeleton, including forensic anthropology and the archaeology of death and burial (‘mortuary archaeology’). Whether it’s an ancient human from a cave in South Africa, hunter-gatherers who lived 9000 years ago at Lake Baikal, or the 9th-12th Century Thule people at Nuvuk, we can learn a lot about people from the study of their bones and teeth: their age, their height and weight, whether they suffered from any illnesses. In forensics this information is used to create a ‘biological profile’ of an unidentified body and, given the high-stakes of criminal investigations, accurate profiling is paramount.

Recently, Marina Elliott’s research showed that FORDISC 3.0, a forensics tool used by crime labs all over the world to identify the ancestry of human remains, had such a high error rate that it should be used with extreme caution, if at all (you can read the paper here). She is now focussed on assessing methods for a different aspect of biological profiling – the accurate estimation of a person’s body mass from their bony remains. Her PhD work should be finished by next summer, and Elliott is keen to get back in the field. “[I] haven’t done much digging since I started the PhD, so this has definitely reminded me that I want to do more primary excavation work,” she says. “I have to say, that for caving or field work, the current expedition tops them all! It has everything: exotic locale, amazing finds, a bit of danger and great science. It really doesn’t get much better than this.”

Written by Tori (@toriherridge)

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9 thoughts on “Marina Elliott

  1. Andrew Husky says:

    To Angelina Jolie,
    Please make a Movie about The Rising Star Cave and Team. Meld info about the 6 Women & their Mitochondrial DNA and as much H.naledi info as possible. Y info for Berger, Hunter, & Tucker, too. How this excavation came together has “great movie” potential.

    1. Simon says:

      I just learned about the Rising Star team and their work; and this makes a very interesting premise. I’ll let Angie know.

      And Marina, I think you’re doing wonderful work in “inhospitable” environments. Kudos to your efforts!

  2. Siena says:

    Our class is doing a project on the newest Homo discovery. We have a few questions and were hoping you could answer some.
    1)What would you describe their body structure to be similar to?
    2)Have you found when they existed?
    3)If no, what are your estimates?
    4)What would you say they used their bodies for?
    5)Do you believe that they used agriculture?
    Thank you for your time. The idea of underground astronautes is amazing.

  3. Steve Buckly says:

    Having attend one of Marina Elliot’s talks on homo naledi it will be interesting to learn how old these hominid bones are. I also understand that another ‘site’ has been discovered close to the Rising Star cave system.

  4. During the awful weeks that the 15 Thai football players were locked up in the cave, I had many sleepless hours. I think that Lee Berger’s team also knew sleepless hours … Has not this been the fate of the h.naledi group? but without a happy ending?

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