“Pernicious traits are to do with human nature. The biggest is a complete absence of self-knowledge.”
Alice Roberts, Professor of Public engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, is, she says, an “old-fashioned clinical anatomist” who “looks at old bones”.
Roberts tries to interpret archaeological remains through skeletons – she can give archaeologists information about whether the deceased was male or female, what diseases they had and how they affected their lives.
“When you start to look at human remains on a population level you can start to see patterns of disease and look at prevalence over time. We can look, for example, at TB and ask why the disease started to affect humans,” Roberts says.
In her book, “The Incredible Likeness of Being”, she considers embryology. She points out that we share features of our embryos with fish. At five weeks, a human embryo has ridges on its neck, much like fish. Fish go on to develop gills, while in humans these elements are recycled into ear bones and the larynx.