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Brenna R. Hassett

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Brenna R. Hassett Headshot.png
Brenna R. Hassett
Author. Bioarchaeologist

Brenna R. Hassett is a biological anthropologist and archaeologist whose research focuses on childhood, growth, and health in the past.

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Brenna R. Hassett, PhD, is a biological anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Central Lancashire and a scientific associate at the Natural History Museum, London. In addition to researching the effects of changing human lifestyles on the human skeleton and teeth in the past, she writes for a more general audience about evolution and archaeology, including the Times (UK) top 10 science book of 2016 Built on Bones: 15,000 Years of Urban Life and Death, and her most recent book, Growing Up Human: The Evolution of Childhood. She is also a co-founder of TrowelBlazers, an activist archive celebrating the achievements of women in the “digging” sciences.

BBC Science Focus | June 2022

Humans have a uniquely long childhood, which sets us apart from all other species on the planet. We invest so heavily in our offspring that we have taken a different evolutionary path from even our closest primate relatives.

Sapiens | November 2022

In her book Growing Up Human, Brenna R. Hassett chronicles some of the most surprising evolutionary adaptations of babies, parents, and grandparents.

The Guardian | July 2022

One of the things that makes Homo sapiens so unique as a species seems so mundane, so everyday, that we rarely stop to question it. But seen from the perspective of every other animal on the planet, our long childhood is an extreme outlier.

Sapiens | March 2021

Stories of pioneering women in the “digging” sciences have been skewed toward those who were white, wealthy, and networked. The TrowelBlazers project aims to reset our imagination—and our future.

Publications by this author
Bloomsbury Publishing | September 2022

Tracking deep into our evolutionary history, anthropological science has begun to unravel one particular feature that sets us apart from the many, many animals that came before us—our uniquely long childhoods. Growing Up Human looks at how we have diverged from our ancestral roots to stay ‘forever young’—or at least what seems like forever—and how the evolution of childhood is a critical part of the human story.

Bloomsbury Publishing | February 2017

Humans and their immediate ancestors were successful hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, but in the last 15,000 years humans have gone from finding food to farming it, from seasonal camps to sprawling cities, from a few people to hordes. Drawing on her own fieldwork in the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, and beyond, archaeologist Brenna R. Hassett explores the long history of urbanization through revolutionary changes written into the bones of the people who lived it.

Journal of Archaeological Science | 2012

Assessment and interpretation of the presence of developmental defects of enamel formation that result from childhood experiences of growth disruption, enamel hypoplasia, is a standard part of almost any systematic bioarchaeological assessment. However, different identification methods lead to different results. This study presents a new method of defect identification that offers a quantitative criterion for establishing defect presence rather than relying solely on observer judgement. It then compares this with a standard field approach to assessing enamel hypoplasia and a non-quantified microscopic approach in order to determine (a) if traditional methods of identifying enamel hypoplasia under little or no magnification offer the same information about the experience of childhood health as methods that examine dental enamel growth microscopically, and (b) the effect of using a quantified criterion to identify enamel hypoplasia.

Archeologies | July 2018

Like most fields of scientific enquiry, the discipline of bioarchaeology has been affected by the proliferation of digitally accessible forms of information. What makes digital bioarchaeological data unique among the archaeological sciences grappling with these issues is that bioarchaeology includes the study, in varying forms and methods, of human remains. Human remains pose particular ethical challenges for researchers and curators.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology | December 2013

Linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), the presence of linear defects of dental enamel formed during periods of growth disruption, is frequently analyzed in physical anthropology as evidence for childhood health in the past. However, a wide variety of methods for identifying and interpreting these defects in archaeological remains exists, preventing easy cross-comparison of results from disparate studies. This article compares a standard approach to identifying LEH using the naked eye to the evidence of growth disruption observed microscopically from the enamel surface. This comparison demonstrates that what is interpreted as evidence of growth disruption microscopically is not uniformly identified with the naked eye, and provides a reference for the level of consistency between the number and timing of defects identified using microscopic versus macroscopic approaches.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology | November 2011

The size of the permanent human canine tooth is one of the few sexually dimorphic features to be present in childhood and as such offers the opportunity to assist in the identification of sex in remains where no other appropriate criteria exist, such as in subadults. However, canine odontometrics are often associated with high levels of interobserver error and can be difficult to access if dentition is in situ. Additionally, appropriate points of measurement can be difficult to identify if the tooth is worn. Alternate measurements of the cervical canine diameters have been proposed as solutions to these issues, but the utility of these measurements in estimating sex has not been conclusively demonstrated.

Interview | September 2023

Humans, as a species, are unique among the animal kingdom in a number of ways, but several of those involve how we have and raise our children. In a class of our own, even compared to other primates, humans spend an extremely long time in childhood and even longer until all parts of us, including our bones, fully mature.

Interview | June 2023

Emily Long and Kirsten Lopez interview two of the founders of Trowelblazers, Dr. Brenna R. Hassett and Dr. Rebecca Wragg Sykes. The Trowelblazers website highlights the contributions of women in archaeology, geology, and paleontology.

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