Copyright Sarah Inskip

Introduction
This four-year project (2016-2020), generously funded by the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Humanities Collaborative Grant programme, brings together an unusually broad range of researchers to study medieval people and their health. A unique aspect of the project is the combination of the various parts; by integrating these studies during the research phase and bringing different kinds of data to bear upon common questions, bioarchaeology can become more than an accumulation of specialist studies to provide a holistic biosocial history.


Social osteology:
This aspect of the project aims to explore signs of activity and lifestyle from the human skeleton, including morphological variations, pathologies, enthesopathies using statistical analyses to explore how they relate to gender, class, and specialisation. (Dr. Sarah Inskip, Dr. John Robb).


Palaeopathology
This branch of the project assesses evidence of infectious disease, traumatic injuries, and congenital, developmental, and metabolic conditions using traditional macroscopic analysis combined with radiology (Dr. Piers Mitchell, Dr. Jenna Dittmar).


Ancient DNA (aDNA)
Ancient DNA, including both human and pathogen, is used to understand population relationships and biological characteristics of the population of Medieval Cambridgeshire. Analysis of ancient pathogen DNA will identify infectious diseases which blighted the people of the city and it’s hinterlands (Dr. Toomas Kivisild, Dr.FreddiScheib).


Isotopic investigations
The analysis of bone and teeth will provide information on diet and how it varied socially (using carbon and nitrogen isotopes) but also enable us to how people moved around geographically (using strontium and oxygen isotopes) (Dr. Tamsin O’Connell, Dr. Susanne Hakenbeck, Ms. Alice Rose).


Studies of bone architecture
CT and micro-CTscanning will be combined with geometric morphometric methods to understand how changes in bone architecture reflect the functional stresses of medieval lifestyles and how these varied among social groups (Dr. Jay Stock, Mr. Bram Mulder).


Historical contextualisation
Providing a historical framework for biological data is a key component of the project. This contextualisation is provided by Craig Cessford, one of the most experienced archaeologists of medieval Cambridge.

Reconstruction of Feature 905, a 13th-century older woman from the Hospital of St. John (image: Mark Gridley)
The Hospital of St. John, Cambridge (image: Mark Gridley)