Emma Bonthorne

DPhil in Archaeology


Archaeological Recovery and skeletal analysis of commingled human remains from the Ossuary of Roncesvalles (Western Pyrenees, Spain)

Research abstract

Excavations carried out between 2019 and 2022 at the ossuary of Roncesvalles (Navarre, Spain) have generated more than 498,000 human bone fragments from mixed contexts dating from the medieval period to the 20th century. Although the value of commingled remains has traditionally been overlooked in archaeological investigations, recent insights from forensic and archaeological research has helped to shed light on their importance in providing information at a population level. The unprecedented scale of the disarticulated skeletal remains at this site necessitates a multi-faceted approach that combines archaeological and osteological methods with historical data to aid in the reconstruction of the taphonomic processes that led to such high levels of commingling. This research proposes the analysis of all the skeletal material uncovered from the first years of excavation at the site, with the aim of determining how many individuals were buried in the silo, and to attempt to reconstruct the wide range of mortuary practices employed during 800 years of continual usage.


Dr David Griffiths, Dr Louise Loe


Originally from Australia, Emma moved to the UK to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, and obtained a Masters in the Recovery and Identification of Human Remains. She has previously carried out excavations in Spain, Peru, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Kosovo and East Timor, and currently co-directs a number of archaeological projects throughout the Basque Country. 

Emma is co-founder of Aditu Arkeologia, a research company based in Biscay and specialising in archaeological and osteological research throughout northern Spain. 

DPhil start date: Michaelmas 2017

Research interests

Osteology, Commingled Remains, Photogrammetry, GIS and spatial analysis, Basque archaeology, Medieval archaeology.