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Career Profile

L. Creighton Avery

L. Creighton Avery looking at specimen using a microscope in her lab.

L. Creighton Avery looking at specimen using a microscope in her lab.

L. Creighton Avery looking at specimen using a microscope in her lab.

L. Creighton Avery looking at specimen using a microscope in her lab.

Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
School Subject

I examine human skeletal remains from archaeological sites to learn about their lives.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Ilderton, Ontario

I now live in: Cambridge, Ontario

I completed my training/education at:  I completed a B.A. (Honours) in Archaeology from Trent University in 2013, a M.A. in Anthropology from McMaster University in 2016, a my Ph.D. in Anthropology from McMaster University in 2022.

What I do at work

I travel to places in France and Italy to examine human skeletons from the Roman Empire to learn about their lives 2000 years ago. Then I record information about each individual. This might include things like how old they were when they died, if they had any diseases, and if they were male or female. I also take teeth from some of those individuals to bring back to a lab in Canada. There, I perform chemical analysis of the teeth to extract peptides from the enamel. This helps me learn more about their biological sex. Carbon and nitrogen isotope values help me to learn about their diet while they were growing up.

Once I have all these data, I combine them with other kinds of evidence, like ancient literary sources or other archaeological data.  This way I can piece together information about their lives and their society. One subject I’m especially interested in is how gendered experiences (being a boy or a girl, a man or a woman) influenced their lives, like what they ate, and when they were considered adults.

Right now, I work as an osteoarchaeologist. This is an archaeologist that specializes or focuses on human and non-human bones. I am also a sessional instructor at McMaster University. Here, I teach courses like Forensic Anthropology, and Plagues and Peoples.

My career path is

In high school, I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I had no hands-on training. I applied for university, then deferred it for one year. I spent this year in Peru as part of an archaeological excavation. I was hooked! I dove into my undergraduate degree with no regrets.

Throughout my degree, I was exposed to new materials like ceramics, lithics, stone tools and architecture. But the one I was most excited about was skeletal remains. So, I've followed that path, working on graduate degrees in this area, with leading specialists. I even tried an internship in built preservation and conservation. This meant I worked at archaeological sites to repair and maintain them. That was cool, but not nearly as exciting as excavating and working with skeletal remains.

I am motivated by

The things that excite me most are the new discoveries. Looking at a skeleton and piecing together a part of their life is very satisfying. This helps us better understand the past. It also helps us understand our own societies today.

Another part of my job that I really enjoy is attending conferences. I get to share my research and hear about other really exciting and groundbreaking work. I'm not the only one who’s excited by the new discoveries, so I love being part of that!

How I affect peoples’ lives

It's often said that those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I focus on the past in my work. However, the insights I gather are applicable to people living today. For example, by looking at people's teeth and what they ate in the past, I can learn about gender inequalities. This tells us how gender biases may have influenced their health and their lives.

Right now, I am researching puberty and adolescence. Learning more about puberty in the past can help us understand puberty today. It can also help us understand what "normal" puberty might look like.

Outside of work I

Outside of work, I still love to be outside and discover new places. Traveling is a huge part of what I love to do, whether it's internationally, or going camping in remote parts of Ontario. I have also started quilting, which I learn by watching YouTube videos. That has been a new and rewarding challenge!

My advice to others

Find the things that bring a smile to your face. Then surround yourself with people who will support you to achieve that dream. When you're being too hard on yourself, they’ll help pick you up and get you back on track.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Geography
  • History
  • Music
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked reading
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Learned best "by doing"
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades

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