Intramural Burial in the Roman Suburbs (2010-present)
I am the bioarchaeologist for the Gabii Project, directed by Nicola Terrenato at the University of Michigan. Gabii was an urban area about 20 km east of Rome, occupied continuously for about 1,500 years and densely populated by the Republican period. Fieldwork at the site is ongoing from 2009-2014 and has revealed a number of burials from several different time periods. The skeletons from Gabii are allowing me to answer questions about health, lifestyle, diet, and status using: a) palaeopathological analysis to investigate how urban development and collapse affected the denizens of the city; b) a thorough study of the Gabine diet through a combination of dental pathology, C/N isotope analysis, and analysis of phytoliths in dental calculus; c) a full osteological, isotope, and DNA analysis of the skeletons found in lead sarcophagi, which represent quite anomalous burials in the Roman world; and d) comparative analysis with the populations I studied for my dissertation research. Earlier this year, I produced an osteological report on the skeletons studied to date. Biochemical analyses are expected to get underway in 2012. Publication of these data is intended for Journal of Archaeological Science, and the results will be synthesized with the Gabii excavation report as well.
Medieval Population and Space: Interdisciplinary Research into the Origin of Berlin’s First Population (2013-present)
Recent archaeological excavations show that, at the beginning of the 13th century, two towns were founded on opposite banks of the Spree River in Germany—Berlin and Cölln—and that by the early 18th century, the cities had become one. Missing, however, are historical records from the Medieval period explaining how, why, when, and by whom the cities were settled. From 2007 to 2010, archaeologists Claudia Melisch and Jamie Sewell excavated a cemetery in Cölln associated with Medieval Petriplatz (St. Peter’s Square), which held over 3,700 skeletons buried between the 13th and 18th centuries. The Petriplatz skeletal collection now represents 50% of all known Medieval and post-Medieval skeletons from the area but is unique in its size and cross-section of the population. Melisch and Sewell have identified the earliest graves at Petriplatz, those of individuals who were among the first residents of Cölln. As Berlin and Cölln were both planned cities, two major questions can be answered through analysis of the skeletal remains that have been excavated: Who were the founders of Berlin/Cölln, and where did they come from? My work on this project involves strontium isotope analysis of dental enamel from 22 individuals from the earliest phase of occupation. Strontium isotopes have the potential to reveal non-locals or immigrants to an area, so this pilot phase of analysis will hopefully shed new light on the founders of early modern Berlin. Other technologies to be tested include 3D scanning and XRF of the teeth before analysis.