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The ancient body

Research The ancient body with The Open University

The Classical Studies discipline is a centre for studying the ancient world through the theme of ‘the body’. We interpret this theme in a highly interdisciplinary way, bringing together the approaches of archaeology, anthropology, medical humanities, ancient history and classical studies to find ways of using material culture and written evidence alongside each other.

We regard the body as a way of addressing what we see as a central question for any historical discipline: is the past just like us, and therefore transparent, or entirely other, and therefore unknowable? Where the body is concerned, the fact that we share so many fundamental everyday experiences with the people of the past may blind us to the difficulties of interpreting their writings, ideas and objects. Yet studying how people thought about, treated, manipulated, modified, represented and disposed of their bodies provides a window into ancient societies.

If you would like to join us as a full- or part-time research student, please contact us for an informal preliminary discussion (details below). A well-thought-out research proposal which sets out specific research questions, your strategies for addressing them and how your research will contribute something new to the field, will enhance your chances of admission.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

BA with a minimum grade of 2:1 (or equivalent), MA

Potential research projects

  • Death, disposal, mourning, grief and burial practices
  • Representations of the body in visual or material culture
  • Religion and the body, including votive offerings
  • The senses and sensory experiences
  • Death in Etruria
  • Sex and sexuality in ancient Greece
  • Receptions of the ancient body
  • Dress in the Roman Empire
  • Gender in the ancient world

Current/recent research projects

  • Infertility, blame and responsibility in the Hippocratic Corpus
  • Sensing the Oracle: a Druid Key to intersensoriality at Dodana
  • Audience Sensory Experience in Thueydides' History of the Peloponnesian War

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Ursula Rothe
+44 (0)1908 653247

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.