About Me

Picture of Dr. Sarah Schrader

I am a bioarchaeologist and anthropological archaeologist interested in the materiality of the ancient past. I analyze skeletal remains and artifacts from mortuary contexts to address everyday life, political economic complexity, social inequality, and migration. These topics are rooted in anthropological thought and importantly contribute to our understanding of humans through diachronic and heuristic perspectives.

I work primarily in the country of Sudan, what was once Nubia. Located south of ancient Egypt, Nubia was an independent polity that practiced unique religious and cultural traditions. The history of the region spans millennia; I have studied the Ancient Kerma Period (2500-1500 BCE), Egyptian imperialism of Nubia during the New Kingdom Period (1500-1050 BCE), as well as the Third Intermediate and Napatan Periods (1050-664 BCE). In addition to my work in Sudan, I also have ongoing collaborative projects in Chile and the Netherlands.


Abu Fatima

In 2015, Dr. Stuart Tyson Smith and I began co-directing a project at the Kerma Period cemetery at Abu Fatima. The site has proven to be quite interesting for several reasons: the use of the cemetery spans the Ancient (2500-2050 BCE), Middle (2050-1650 BCE), and Classic Kerma (1650-1550 BCE) Periods; the degree of preservation is extraordinary - soft tissue, leather sandals, ostrich-feather fans, and burial hides are all excellently preserved. During this past season, I identified the settlement that is associated with the cemetery. We hope to begin excavations of the settlement in the coming season. In the meantime, bioarchaeological analysis and mortuary archaeology of the cemetery has proven particularly interesting.

Excavations at Abu Fatima have allowed us to address new and exciting archaeological questions. Several of the human inhumations have also included animal burials, which present interesting topics regarding human-animal relationships at the nexus of religious beliefs about death. The preservation of clothing, mostly leather skirts and loin cloths, has allowed us to examine traditional garb in Ancient Nubia--something that, until now, has only been done through the interpretation of ancient art. The intersection of clothing and gender identity in Nubia is another topic I am exploring.

I'm also very excited about the excavation of the settlement space, which was in use during the same time as the cemetery. Due to the highly conscripted environment of the Nile Valley, modern habitations are often placed directly atop ancient ones as the space is continually reused. A paleochannel that ran near Abu Fatima was the life-line of this ancient community; once it dried up, it was no longer an ideal place to live, which preserved this rare settlement record. The data from the excavation of the habitation space will allow us to address: habitation architecture and use of space, the relationship between the living (in the settlement) and the dead (in the cemetery; ~500m apart) in Ancient Nubian culture, and everyday experience from multi-faceted perspectives.

Political-Economic Complexity

Because Abu Fatima spans the entire Kerma Period, we can examine material and skeletal data from a diachronic perspective and speak to political, economic, and social changes that occurred during the growth, apex, and collapse of the Kerma State. For example, I’m interested in the correlation between multiple forms of violence (e.g., direct, structural, cultural) and state formation. Through the skeletal analysis of trauma, paleopathological conditions, and stunted growth, we can examine diachronic patterns of violence and indicators of structural violence; if practiced over long periods of time, this may suggest an environment of cultural violence. I also question the role that migration played in the growth of ancient states; using strontium isotope analysis, we can determine if the individuals living in Abu Fatima were local or non-local. Importantly, these are issues that directly apply to modern scenarios of development and diaspora. The excellent degree of preservation at Abu Fatima, as well as its deep chronology, allow us to use new methodologies and to further our anthropological understanding the political-economic complexity through time.

Bioarchaeology of the Everyday

For decades, anthropologists have been interested peoples’ day-to-day lives. Cultural anthropologists investigate this topic through participant observation and interviews, speaking and directly interacting with their research subjects. Archaeologists contribute to this conversation by examining everyday life diachronically, through the meticulous excavation of built space, midden deposits, and modes of production (something Dr. Smith and I will be doing in the near future!). l argue that the analysis of skeletal remains can contribute to the anthropological dialogue of examining daily life in the ancient world. Bones are constantly in a state of biological remodeling and, thus, adapt and change as an individual interacts with their environment. By analyzing the products of day-to-day practices, such as labor and diet, I can elucidate what life was like in the ancient world. I consider these practices to be both the products of our own social structure, as well as our own individual wants and motivations. My work in advancing the methodology of Bioarchaeology of the Everyday, the theoretical connections, and case studies from Nubia are discussed in my book, Activity, Diet, and Social Practice: Addressing Everyday Life in Human Skeletal Remains (Springer, 2019).

Teaching and Outreach

Courses Taught

Teaching – Instructor of Record

2017-2021Leiden University

Advanced Osteoarchaeology
Advanced Paleopathology
MSc Internship Coordinator
MSc Internship
Professional Development
Scientific Methodology in Archaeology

2016-2017University of Notre Dame

Biocultural Approaches to Food

2014-2016University of California, Santa Cruz

Introduction to Biological Anthropology
Human Skeletal Biology
Bioarchaeology and Forensics Biocultural Approaches to Food

2013-2014Western Michigan University

Race, Biology, and Culture (lecture)
Race, Biology, and Culture (online)
Bioanthropological Approaches to Food
Cultures of Africa
Introduction to Biological Anthropology

2012-2013Purdue University

Culture, Food and Health
Archaeology of Ancient Egypt and the Near East

Students Supervised

PhD Supervision

  1. Maia Casna, Leiden University
  2. Alyson Caine, University of California, Merced
  3. Erin Borneman, University of California, Santa Barbara
  4. Jessica Palmer, Leiden University

Completed MSc Theses

  1. Hélène Lepage, “Activity and Entheseal Changes of the Population of Eindhoven, Buried at the Catharina Church Between 1500 and 1850” 
  2. Michael C. Steenbakker, “Worked to the Bone: Interpreting Entheseal Changes in a Late 15th to Early 16th Century Population from Alkmaar, the Netherlands” 
  3. Eleftheria Orfanou, “A Shiver Down One’s Spine: The Use of Vertebral Measurements and Stature as Non-Specific Indicators of Stress in Order to Detect Growth Disruption and Social Inequality in Postmedieval Eindhoven, the Netherlands” 
  4. Marta Hlad, “Gendered Division of Labor in 15th to 18th Century Aalst, Belgium, and 17th to 19th Century Middenbeemster, the Netherlands” 
  5. Mike de Heij, “Autofluorescence of Bone and the Potential of its Variating Intensities in Relation to Time Since Death: A Macroscopic Analysis of Samples from the Post-Medieval Middenbeemster Cemetery in the Netherlands”
  6. Lynn Jansen, “The Application of Analytical Methods to Prehistoric Cremated Human Remains from Ermelose Heide and Oss-IJsselstraat”
  7. Marijke Langevoort, “Estimating Sex in Juveniles: Assessing the Curvature of the Iliac Crest Based on Sinuosity Values from 3D Models Using Laser Scanning”
  8. Hope Simpson, “The ‘Offal’ Influence of Class on Diet: Contemplating Social Inequalities in Diet through Stable Isotope Analysis of Carbon and Nitrogen in Bone Collagen from Human Remains Buried at Sint-Catharinakerk in Post-Medieval Eindhoven, The Netherlands”
  9. Elisa van Veldhuizen, “Not Just Simply Old: Testing the Accuracy and Precision of Transition Analysis on a Human Osteoarchaeological Sample with Known Age-at-Death (Middenbeemster, The Netherlands)”
  10. Jude Olszewski, “You Age What You Eat: A Refined Method in Estimating Age-at-Death Using Dental Wear”
  11. Rachael Hall, “Analysing the Auricular Surface: A Validation Study of a Non-Adult Sex Estimation Method in the Middenbeemster Population”
  12. Petar Davidkov, “Vertebral Compression: An Assessment of Vertebral Compression Fracture as Indicator of Activity in Post-Medieval Netherlands”
  13. Marijke van Kempen, “Stressed Out: Measuring Frailty in the Early Modern High Status and Low Status Populations of Zwolle and Arnhem with the Use of Non-Specific Stress Indicators”
  14. Anne Dijkstra, “Estimating Sex from Calcaneus Measurements in a 19th Century Dutch Population: A Machine Learning Approach”
  15. Mayke Bruïjstens, “Seven Clicks to Sex: Estimating Sex of Adults from the Post-Medieval Sites of Middenbeemster and Aalst Using 2D Photographs for the Crania”
  16. Aliki Giannikou, “Life Conditions of Non-Adult Individuals, in Post-Medieval Northwestern Europe, Based on Dental Health and Dental Defects”
  17. Roos Kallsingh, “Testing a Metric Sexing Method on the Sterna of the 19th Century Middenbeemster Skeletal Collection”
  18. Helena Muńoz Mojado, “Choose Your Side: Osteometric Sex Diagnosis from Both Upper Limbs in Late Medieval and Post-Medieval Dutch Populations”
  19. Maia Casna, “To Follow Someone’s Nose: A Bioarchaeological Study of Chronic Maxillary Sinusitis and Respiratory Health in Two Post-Medieval populations from the Netherlands”
  20. Maria Feiler, “Sex and the City: Urbanization’s Effects on Sexual Dimorphism in the Post-Medieval Dutch”
  21. Raquel Guedes-Almeida, “Generation and Evaluation of a User-Interface for the Identification of Skeletal Joint Diseases”
  22. Veronica Jackson, “Making the Invisible Visible: Test of a Population-Specific Non-Adult Sexing Approach Using Permanent Odontometrics on a Post-Medieval Dutch Skeletal Collection”
  23. Elena Sandoval, “Human Adaptation to Climate: A Study of Human Adaptation to Humidity and Temperature in Three Populations”
  24. Maria Serrano Ruber, “Re-examining Scurvy: The Prevalence of Scurvy in a Post-Medieval Rural Dutch Population”
  25. Niels Sommers, “Age-at-Death Estimation Using Dental Root Translucency”
  26. Merel van Eynde, “Straight to the Hips: Pelvic Inlet Morphology as an Indicator of Nutritional Status in Two Urban, Post-Medieval Dutch Collections”
  27. Anita Perlot, “Weary Post-Medieval Populations”
  28. Anna Maria Mavridou, “Tracking Breastfeeding and Weaning Practices in Cuba” (co-supervised with Jason Laffoon)
  29. Dado Postma, “Respiratory Health in the Netherlands and England in the Post-Medieval period”
  30. Jenna Savolainen, “Hands full of work: Musculoskeletal activity patterns as an indicator of socioeconomic and occupational status”
  31. Iris Slaus, “A degree of osteophytes as a marker for age-at-death”
  32. Lysanne Michels, “In Our Own Natures Frail: Testing the Skeletal Frailty Index on the Dutch (Post)Mediaeval Urban Eindhoven Collection”
  33. Chrysoula Chatzinikolaou, “Osteoarthritis and Body Size in Ancient Nubia”
  34. Amena Ghareeb, “Anatomical Differences Between Endurance Runners and Sprinters”
  35. Carlijne Wijngaarden, “Bone Surface Texture and Age-at-Death of post-Medieval Adult Skeletal Remains from Middenbeemster, the Netherlands”
  36. Fotini Constantinou, “Schmorl's Nodes and Vertebral Body Size”

Completed BA Theses

  1. Vitek Weijland, “Digging for DNA”
  2. Mary van der Hoorn, “Entheseal changes and patterns of activity in Lower Nubia”
  3. Katherine Miller, “Hannek: An investigation into Ancient Nubia Through Excavation and Bioarchaeological Examination”
  4. Franklin Norris, “Physical Activity at Abu Fatima, Nubia: An Upper Body Perspective”


Here are a few of my outreach activities:


Day of the Dead, Leiden City of Science 2022

Past Events

Biomolecular Archaeology: New Frontiers and Future Directions Organizer and presenter, open to the public

de Volkskrant

Stuidum Generale

Leiden University, Faculty of Archaeology Open days

Nationale Archaeologiedagen

Sarah A. Schrader

Faculty of Anthropology, Leiden University

Einsteinweg 2, 2333 CC Leiden, The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)71 527 1685



2013    PhD  Purdue University, Anthropology, with distinction

Dissertation: “Bioarchaeology of the Everyday: Analysis of Diet and Activity Patterns in the Nile Valley” Advisor: Dr. Michele Buzon

2010    MS   Purdue University, Anthropology, with distinction

Thesis: “A Bioarchaeological Investigation of Activity Patterns in New Kingdom Nubia” Advisor: Dr. Michele Buzon

2006    BA   University of California, Santa Barbara, with honors

Thesis: “Comparative Skeletal Analysis of Stature in California Native Americans” Advisor: Dr. Phillip L. Walker

Academic Positions

2017-              Assistant Professor, Archaeology, Leiden University

2016- 2017   Adjunct Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

2014-2016    Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz 

2013-2014    Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Western Michigan University

Research and Teaching Interests 

Bioarchaeology of the everyday; Sociopolitical complexity and resultant inequalities, health disparities, and violence; Dietary reconstruction; Mobility, migration, and ancient diaspora; Biogeochemistry; Mortuary archaeology; Nile Valley archaeology (Sudan, Egypt, North Africa)


2019             S. Schrader, Activity, Diet, and Social Practice: Addressing Everyday Life in Human Skeletal Remains. Bioarchaeology and Social Theory Series, Springer. (D. Martin, series editor)

Peer-Reviewed Publications 

2021             S. Schrader and S.T. Smith. “Archaeology of the Kerma Culture.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of African History., Oxford University Press.

2021             M. Casna, C.L. Burrell, R. Schats, M.L.P. Hoogland, and S. Schrader.  Urbanisation and respiratory stress in the Northern Low Countries: a comparative study of chronic maxillary sinusitis in two early modern sites from the Netherlands (AD 1626--1866). International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

2020             S. Schrader and C. Torres-Rouff. “Embodying Bioarchaeology: Theory and Practice.” In Theoretical Approaches in Bioarchaeology, ed. C. Cheverko, J. Prince-Buitenhuys, and M. Hubbe. Routledge.

2020             B.P. Bartholdy, E. Sandoval, M.L.P. Hoogland, and S. Schrader.  Getting Rid of Dichotomous Sex Estimations: Why Logistic Regression Should be Preferred Over Discriminant Function Analysis. Journal of Forensic Sciences.  65(5):1685-1691

2019             S. Schrader, M. Buzon, L. Corcoran, and A. Simonetti, “Intraregional 87Sr/86Sr Variation in Nubia: New Insights from Third Cataract.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 24:373-379.

2019             M. Buzon, S. Schrader, and G. Bowen, “Isotopic Approaches to Mobility in Northern Africa: A Bioarchaeological Examination of Egyptian/Nubian Interaction in the Nile Valley.” In Trans-Sahara: State Formation, Migration and Trade in the Central Sahara (1000 BC-AD 1500), ed. D. Mattingly. Cambridge University Press. 

2018             S. Schrader, S.T. Smith, S. Olsen, and M. Buzon, “Symbolic Equids and Kushite State Formation: A Horse Burial at Tombos.” Antiquity 92(362):383-397.

2018             S. Schrader, M. Buzon, and S.T. Smith, “Colonial-indigene interaction in Ancient Nubia: an integrative analysis of diet, health, and the material record.” Bioarchaeology of the Near East 12:1-32.

2017             S. Schrader and M. Buzon, “Everyday Life After Collapse: A Bioarchaeological Examination of Entheseal Change and Accidental Injury in Post-Colonial Nubia.” Bioarchaeology International 1(1-2):19-34.

2017             S. Schrader and S.T. Smith, “Socializing Violence: Interpersonal Violence Recidivism at Abu Fatima (Sudan).” In Broken Bodies: Bioarchaeological and Forensic Approaches of Accumulative Trauma and Violence, edited by C. Tegtmeyer and D. Martin. Lexington Books, Latham, MD.

2015             S. Schrader, “Elucidating Inequality in Nubia: An Examination of Entheseal Remodeling at Kerma (Sudan).” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 156:192-202.

2014             S. Schrader, M. Buzon, and J. Irish, “Illuminating the Nubian ‘Dark Age’: A Bioarchaeological Analysis of Dental Non-Metric Traits During the Napatan Period.” Journal of Comparative Human Biology 65(4):267-280.

2012             S. Schrader, “Activity Patterns in New Kingdom Nubia: An Examination of Entheseal Remodeling and Osteoarthritis at Tombos.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149:60-70.

Extramural Research Funding

2018             American Association of Physical Anthropologists Cobb Professional Development Grant, “Unearthing Hidden Stress and Frailty: An Assessment of Hair Cortisol and Non-Specific Disease Indicators” ($7,500)

2017             Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, “Moving to the City: An Examination of Migration, Urbanization, and State Formation in Ancient Nubia” ($6,000)

2016             National Geographic Society, “Socializing Violence in Ancient Nubia: Connecting Interpersonal Conflict with State Development in the Archaeological Record” ($20,000)

2012             National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, “Bioarchaeological Analysis of Diet and Activity Patterns in the Nile Valley,” BCS-1128950 ($19,849)

Intramural Research Funding

2018             Bakels Research Grant, “Stressed Out: An Analysis of Archaeological Hair Cortisol,” Leids Universiteits Fonds (€5,000)

2014             Research Grant, Office of the Vice President for Research, Western Michigan University ($800)

2013             Walter Hirsch Award, Dissertation Research Award, Purdue University ($1,500)

2012             Global Research Synergy Grant, “Identifying Migration: Egyptian Diet and Social Identity in Ancient Nubia,” Purdue University ($10,050)

2012             Purdue Research Foundation Grant, “Archaeology of the Everyday: A Bioarchaeological Approach to Activity Patterns and Diet of Ancient Nubians,” Purdue University ($15,288) 

Archaeological Fieldwork and Experience 

2018-            Saqqara (Egypt); Researcher

2016-            San Pedro de Atacama, Chile; Researcher

2015-            Abu Fatima, Sudan; Co-Director of Excavation and lead bioarchaeologist

2015             Hannek, Sudan; Co-Director of Excavation and lead bioarchaeologist

2012             The British Museum; Researcher

2012             Duckworth Laboratory, University of Cambridge; Researcher

2012             Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen; Researcher

2010-            Tombos, Sudan; Lead bioarchaeologist and lab manager

2007-2008    Port Anta Association for Iberian Archaeology, Lisbon; Research and instruction


2016             Early Career Award, Paleopathology Association

2016             Accessibility Leadership Award, Disability Resource Center, University of California, Santa Cruz

2013             Teaching Award, Committee for the Education of Teaching Assistants, Purdue University

2011             Graduate Teaching Certificate Center for Instructional Excellence, Purdue University

2010             Distinguished Masters Thesis Award, Purdue University, College of Liberal Arts

Selected Conference Presentations and Invited Lectures 

2021             S. Schrader “The Embodiment of Colonial Strategy: Osteoarthritis in Ancient Nubia” poster presented, Paleopathology Association

2020             S. Schrader, M. Buzon, and A. Simonetti “Strontium Isotope Variability (87Sr/86Sr) in the Ancient Nile Valley (Egypt and Nubia): Establishing Baseline Data and Tracking Human Mobility” poster presented, American Association for Physical Anthropologists

2019             S. Schrader “Stressed to Death: An Analysis of Hair Cortisol and Non-Specific Stress Indicators” podium presentation, British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology

2019             S. Schrader (keynote). “Osteoarchaeology in the Nile Valley: What Bones Can Tell Us About Ancient Life” podium presentation, International Congress for Young Egyptologists

2019             S. Schrader. “Archaeological Hair Cortisol: A New Frontier?” podium presentation, Nederlandse Vereniging voor Fysische Antropolgoie

2018             S. Schrader and S.T. Smith. “Secondary State Formation at the Third Cataract: Integrating Skeletal and Funerary Data from Abu Fatima” podium presentation, The 14th International Conference for Nubian Studies

2018             S. Schrader. “Mortuary Trends and Tenets in Ancient Nubia: A Case Study from the Third Cataract (Sudan)” podium presentation, Mortuary Archaeology Today: Approaches, Methods and Ethics, Groningen

2018             S. Schrader, M. Hubbe, and C. Torres-Rouff. “Contextualizing the Biocultural Approach with Practice Theory: Physical Activity and Inequality During the Andean Middle Horizon and Late Intermediate Period” podium presentation, American Association of Physical Anthropologists

See full CV for teaching experience, laboratory training and experience, awards, outreach, and professional activities and service.