Headshot of Diana Simpson

Diana Simpson

Ph.D. Candidate; Part-time Instructor
Department(s): Anthropology
Email: simpsd4@unlv.nevada.edu


I am a PhD student studying bioarchaeology under the mentorship of Dr. Debra Martin currently focusing on ritual, violence, and identity in the early prehistoric Southeastern US. In particular, I am interested in disrupting the assumption that all past violence would have been purely maladaptive or negative, and interrogating the motivations and meaning behind violent actions in the past.

My master’s research at the University of Alabama focused on the provision of care for disabled individuals in the early-prehistoric Southeast, demonstrating the presence of complex caregiving for numerous individuals during this pre-sedentary time. During this research, I was also able to identify a probable case of assisted death for a disabled individual in the past. This unique and fascinating case led me to my current research focus, interrogating the complex meaning and intention behind ritual and non-ritual violence in the past.

My current work is mostly lab-based, focusing on museum collections, but I have also done archaeological and bioarchaeological field work at many historic and prehistoric sites in the Southeastern and Southwestern US, the Petra site in Jordan, and a medieval cemetery in the Transylvania region of Romania. In addition, during my undergraduate years, I completed a thesis studying the behavior of a captive Zoo gorilla group in North Carolina, and I continue to engage with topics relating to animal behavior and human-animal interactions as an instructor at UNLV. My general research interests include paleopathology, bioarchaeological approaches to care, violence, assisted death, identity, and mortuary behavior in the past, as well as the Archaic Period in Southeastern North America, NAGPRA, and archaeological/medical illustration.


  • BA, Wake Forest University, Anthropology (2013)
  • M.A., University of Alabama, Department of Anthropology (2017)

Research Interests: Ritual Violence, paleopathology, trauma, bioarchaeology of assisted death, bioarchaeology of care, identity and intersectionality in the past, mortuary practice, Archaic Period Southeastern North America, primate behavior, human evolution and adaptation, archaeological/medical illustration