Professor Judith Littleton

BAHons (Sydney); MA PhD (ANU)


PhD ANU (Biological anthropology and Archaeology) 1993; ARC Postdoctoral Fellow (1995-1998), Lecture University of Auckland 1998-; Associate Professor of Biological Anthropology (2008-).

Research | Current

  • Biological anthropology
  • Medical anthropology
  • Human osteology and health
  • Fieldwork in Middle East, Australia, Mongolia and New Zealand.

I research, publish and supervise in the field of bioarchaeology, have lead externally funded research programs in the Middle East and Australia, been part of international research teams in Mongolia and provide human osteology expertise to New Zealand authorities and iwi. I also work in the area of medical anthropology specifically researching tuberculosis and syndemics in New Zealand and the Pacific. My focus in both fields is on developing concepts and methods that allow us to understand the interaction of biology and culture.

My two current research foci are:

  • A Marsden funded project: 8000 years of hunter-gatherer life at Roonka, South Australia. Using 213+ human remains and detailed records from Roonka, Australia, dating to the last 8,000 years, we are studying burials as individual events. Analysing each in terms of its date, burial practices, and the individual histories of diet, health and activity will allow us to construct individual osteobiographies providing evidence of constraint and variation in Aboriginal lifeways. Conventional approaches aggregate burials into broad time spans (e.g. 5000 years) rather we will use osteobiographies to reconstruct a picture of historical change. This new model of hunter-gatherer behaviour is being developed with the collaboration and support of local Aboriginal community. 
  • Transnational Pacific Health through the lens of TB. A cross-disciplinary project with J. Park, (Social Anthropology) and collaborators exploring the syndemic of TB and DM among Tuvaluans and Cook Islanders both in New Zealand and in their home islands.  The goal is to understand how transnationalism creates new challenges and buffers people's health. This project is ongoing as we continue to write and think about our results but we have recently joined a project with Anneka Anderson exploring community attitudes to research involving human samples (in this case sputum), bacilli (TB) and cultural beliefs and practices.

Teaching | Current

ANTHRO 102 Introduction to Biological Anthropology

ANTHRO 235 The Anthropology of Human Remains

ANTHRO 324 Medical Anthropology

ANTHRO 367 The Anthropology of Human Remains

ANTHRO 748 Human Osteology

Areas of expertise

Human osteology, dental anthropology, medical anthropology

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Australasian Society of Human Biology Lifetime Member

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Emmitt, J., Littleton, J., Young, R., & Phillipps, R. (2019). Digitizing Roonka: The creation of a 3D representation from archival records. Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, 1310.1016/j.daach.2019.e00094
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joshua Emmitt, Rebecca Phillipps
  • Karstens, S., Littleton, J., Frohlich, B., Amgaluntugs, T., Pearlstein, K., & Hunt, D. (2018). A palaeopathological analysis of skeletal remains from Bronze Age Mongolia. Homo : internationale Zeitschrift fur die vergleichende Forschung am Menschen, 69 (6), 324-334. 10.1016/j.jchb.2018.11.002
  • Jeong, C., Wilkin, S., Amgalantugs, T., Bouwman, A. S., Taylor, W. T. T., Hagan, R. W., ... Grossmann, J. (2018). Bronze Age population dynamics and the rise of dairy pastoralism on the eastern Eurasian steppe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115 (48), E11248-E11255. 10.1073/pnas.1813608115
  • Spray, J., Floyd, B., Littleton, J., Trnka, S., & Mattison, S. (2018). Social group dynamics predict stress variability among children in a New Zealand classroom. HOMO-JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE HUMAN BIOLOGY, 69 (1-2), 50-61. 10.1016/j.jchb.2013.03.005
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Susanna Trnka
  • Littleton, J. (2018). Hunter–gatherer dental pathology: Do historic accounts of Aboriginal Australians correspond to the archeological record of dental disease?. American Journal of Human Biology, 30 (2)10.1002/ajhb.23076
  • Littleton, J. (2017). Dental wear and age grading at Roonka, South Australia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 163 (3), 519-530. 10.1002/ajpa.23226
  • Littleton, J., Petchey, F., Walshe, K., & Pate, F. D. (2017). A preliminary redating of the Holocene Roonka burials, south-eastern Australia. Archaeology in Oceania, 52 (2), 98-107. 10.1002/arco.5126
  • Karstens, S. K., Littleton, J., Frohlich, B., Amgaluntugs, T., & Kristen, P. (2017). Palaeopathological Indicators of Mounted Pastoralism during the Mongolian Bronze Age. Paper presented at 86th Annual Meeting of the American-Association-of-Physical-Anthropologists (AAPA), New Orleans, LA. 19 April - 22 April 2017. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. (pp. 2).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Sarah Karstens


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 7, Room 721
New Zealand

Web links