hero image
Professor Tim Thompson - University Alliance. Middlesbrough, England, GB

Professor Tim Thompson

Professor of Applied Biological Anthropology | University Alliance

Middlesbrough, England, UNITED KINGDOM

His area of expertise is in the decomposition of human remains after death - with interest in what happens when a skeleton or body is burnt.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Burnt Bodies



Forensic Anthropology

Human Remains


Professor Tim Thompson is Professor of Applied Biological Anthropology in the School of Health and Life Sciences, Teesside University. His area of expertise is in the decomposition of human remains after death - with particular interest in what happens when a skeleton or body is burnt. He is involved in identifying people from burnt remains and has had major media interest in his work on identifying remains at the ancient city of Herculaneum in Italy (the scene of the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD).

Tim has spent the last 20 years developing new methods to support the forensic and archaeological sciences through forensic anthropology. he has published more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals and books and his latest is Human Remains: Another Dimension – the application of imaging to the study of human remains. Other works include The Archaeology of Cremation: Burned Human Remains in Funerary Studies and Human Identity and Identification. He is senior editor for the Forensic Human Identification and is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Royal Society of Biology and is an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine.

Media Mentions (5)

Archaeologists find evidence of neurons in glassy brain of Vesuvius victim

Ars Technica  online


According to Tim Thompson, a forensic anthropologist at Teesside University in the UK, brains don't typically survive for long after death. "It's one of the earliest things to decompose in a standard decompositional context," he told Ars. But it is not unprecedented.

view more

Scientists find preserved brain cells in ancient man crushed by volcano

Futurism  online


Other scientists aren’t convinced with Petrone’s theory that the sudden, intense heat basically fried the man’s body and turned his brain to glass. Teesside University forensic anthropologist Tim Thompson, for example, suspects that a longer-lasting, lower-intensity heat killed the man, and told Ars that he’s frustrated Petrone’s team didn’t share the raw data.

view more

Preserved brain tissue found in victim of ancient vesuvius eruption, scientists say

Gizmodo  online


Tim Thompson, a professor of applied biological anthropology at Teesside University in the UK, felt that the new paper, like some of Petrone’s previous work, didn’t contain enough information for “an external person to make a proper assessment of it,” he said during a video call.

view more

Vesuvius victims died slower than believed

Heritage Daily  online


“They hid for protection, and got stuck,” said Tim Thompson, a Professor of Applied Biological Anthropology at Teesside University. “The general theory has been that these individuals were instantly vaporised.”

view more

Grim new research suggests some Vesuvius eruption victims experienced a slow death

CTV News  online


The team, which included applied biological anthropology professor Tim Thompson of Teesside University in the U.K., studied several sets of skeletal remains in coastal stone boat sheds, known as fornici, and published their findings in the February edition of the Antiquity journal.

view more

Multimedia Appearances





Interview with Tim Thompson



Accomplishments (3)

Short-listed (1 of 3) for the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Enterprise Activity


Winner ‘Highly Commended’ in the Knowledge Transfer Award in Blueprint Business Planning Competition grand final.


Winner Ward Hadaway Science Award in Blueprint Business Planning Competition regional final


Education (3)

University of Sheffield: Ph.D., Forensic Pathology and Archaeology 2003

University of Bradford: M.Sc., Forensic Anthropology 1999

University of Sheffield: B.Sc., Archaeological Science and Geography 1998

Affiliations (5)

  • Member, American Academy of Forensic Science
  • Member, International Academy of Legal Medicine
  • Member, British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology
  • Member, Association of National Teaching Fellows
  • Member, Council of Forensic Science Educators

Event Appearances (5)

Hot Mess: Towards a bioarchaeology of cremation

The ‘Trial by Fire’ Conference (2019)  London, U.K.

Advancing Forensics: Current and future direction

Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences Annual Student Conference (2018)  University of Derby

Entangled: Methods for differentiating bodies and physical identities

The ‘Bodies of Evidence’ Art of Identification workshop (2016)  University of Urbana-Champaign

The relationship between research and learning and teaching

The ‘Festival of Learning (2016)  Teesside University

The development of digital resources for teaching skeletal anatomy in the forensic sciences

The ‘Skin and Bones’ Anatomical Society Annual Conference (2014)  University of Bradford

Articles (5)

Choose your own murder: Non-linear narratives enhance student understanding in forensic science education

Forensic Science International: Synergy

2020 Higher education teaching in the forensic sciences tends to follow a traditional format of lectures followed by practical laboratory sessions. Sometimes this approach is not possible or viewed as not innovative enough.

view more

A re-evaluation of manner of death following the Vesuvius eruption at the Roman town of Herculaneum

Teesside University

2019 Herculaneum is one of the most famous Roman settlements in the world. One of the details which remains unclear is the specific manner in which the victims died during the eruption. We address this issue here through the investigation of changes in bone apatite structure and collagen preservation using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) combined with collagen extraction.

view more

Determining the Effectiveness of Noncontact Three‐Dimensional Surface Scanning for the Assessment of Open Injuries

Journal of Forensic Sciences

2019 Noncontact three‐dimensional (3D) surface scanning methods are used within forensic medicine to record traumas and other related findings. A structured light scanning technique is one of these methods and the most suitable for the forensic field.

view more

Determining the effectiveness of non-contact three-dimensional surface scanning for the assessment of open injuries

Teesside University

2019 Non-contact three-dimensional (3D) surface scanning methods are used within forensic medicine to record traumas and other related findings. A structured light scanning technique is one of these methods and the most suitable for the forensic field. An assessment of the efficiency of different structured light scanners with forensic injuries is essential to validate this technique for wound documentation.

view more

The effect of different imaging techniques for the visualisation of evidence in court on jury comprehension

International Journal of Legal Medicine

2019 Evidence presented within a courtroom should be clear so that the members of the jury can understand it. The presentation of distressing images, such as human remains, can have a negative effect on the jury since photographic images may evoke emotional responses.

view more