Past Research

Migration and Mobility in Imperial Rome (PhD research, 2005-2010)

My dissertation research involved osteological analysis of two cemetery populations from Rome, Italy, curated by the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma. Imperial Rome was the seat of a colonial force and a significant preindustrial urban center. For centuries, scholarship was concerned only with the radiation of Roman culture to the provinces, and the issue of immigrants coming to Rome has been underresearched by all but historical demographers, for whom immigrants are little more than a statistic. Modern theoretical discussions in anthropology, however, conceive of migration as a process in which active agents move within and between both geographic and cultural space. My research views migration to Rome through the lens of transnationalism, using chemical analysis and archaeological and osteological data to investigate individual migrants’ lives and identities and to situate them within a contextualized social field of migration.

  • Publications resulting from this research include:
    • Killgrove K. 2018. Using skeletal remains as a proxy for Roman lifestyles: the potential and problems with osteological reconstructions of health, diet, and stature in Imperial Rome. In Diet and Nutrition in the Roman World, C. Holleran and P. Erdkamp, eds. Routledge.
    • Killgrove K. 2017. Imperialism and physiological stress in Rome and its environs (1st-3rd centuries AD). In: Bioarchaeology of Contact, Colonialism, and Imperialism, H. Klaus and M. Murphy, eds. University Press of Florida.
    • Killgrove K and J Montgomery. 2016. All roads lead to Rome: Exploring human migration to the Eternal City through biochemistry of skeletons from two Imperial-era cemeteries (1st-3rd c AD).PLOS ONE 11(2): e0147585. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147585. [PDF and HTML]
    • Killgrove K. 2013. Biohistory of the Roman Republic: the potential of isotope analysis of human skeletal remains.  Post-Classical Archaeologies 3:41-62.
    • Killgrove K and R Tykot. 2013.  Food for Rome: a stable isotope investigation of diet in the Imperial period (1st-3rd centuries AD). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32(1):28-38. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2012.08.002. [PDF]
    • Killgrove K. 2010. Identifying immigrants to Imperial Rome using strontium isotope analysis. In Roman Diasporas: Archaeological Approaches to Mobility and Diversity in the Roman Empire, H. Eckardt ed. Journal of Roman Archaeology supplement 78, Chapter 9, pp. 157-174.
    • Montgomery J, J Evans, S Chenery, V Pashley, K Killgrove. 2010. “Gleaming, white and deadly”: lead exposure and geographic origins in the Roman period. In Roman Diasporas: Archaeological Approaches to Mobility and Diversity in the Roman Empire, H. Eckardt ed. Journal of Roman Archaeology supplement 78, Chapter 11, pp. 199-226.
    • Killgrove K. 2010. Migration and Mobility in Imperial Rome. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina. [PDF]
    • Musco S, A Caspio, P Catalano, W Pantano, K Killgrove. 2008. Le complexe archéologique de Casal Bertone. Les Dossiers d’Archéologie 330 (Nov/Dec):32-39.

Medieval Population and Space: Interdisciplinary Research into the Origin of Berlin’s First Population (2013-2020)

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 pilot project involved strontium isotope analysis of dental enamel from 22 individuals from the earliest phase of occupation; this was done in 2013 at UNC Chapel Hill in Drew Coleman’s Sr isotope lab.  Funding received as part of the Florida Research Fellowship program at UWF in fall 2015 allowed me to investigate women’s economic role in pre- and post-Black Death Germany through stable isotope analysis of dietary changes; this was done in collaboration with Bethany Turner at Georgia State University.

Funding: UWF Scholarly and Creative Activities Award (2013); Florida Research Fellowship (2015-16); UWF Graduate Student Research Award (to Mariana Zechini, 2015); UWF Graduate Student Association Research Award (to Mariana Zechini, 2015)

Project Website (in German):

Publications to date: 

  • Zechini, M.E., K. Killgrove, C. Melisch, B. Turner, B. Schaefer. 2021. Diachronic changes in diet in Medieval Berlin: Comparison of dietary isotopes from pre- and post-Black Death adults. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 38. [PDF]
  • Melisch, C.M., I. Garlisch, B. Jungklaus, K. Killgrove, M. Nagy, N. Powers, J. Rothe, B. Teßmann, M. Tichomirowa, K. White. 2017. Auf der Suche nach den ersten Berlinern. Das internationale Forschungsproject “Medieval Space and Population.” Mitteilungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, Bd. 37, 51-64.
  • Melisch, C.M, I. Garlisch, J. Rothe, M. Tichomirowa, K. Killgrove, and N. Powers. 2017. Medieval space and population: Internationale Forscher auf der Suche nach den ersten Berlinern. In: Archäologie in Berlin und Brandenburg 2015, Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, pp. 102-108.

Virtebra @ UWF – Virtual Bones & Artifacts Lab (2013-2018)

I worked with graduate students to 3D scan and print artifacts and bones from the University of West Florida collections.  Scans and prints are available on GitHub.

Publications to date: 

  • Robbins Schug, G., K. Killgrove, A. Atkin, K. Barron. 2021. 3D dead: meaning, agency, and ethical considerations in digital osteology. Bioarchaeology International 4 (3-4): 217-230. [PDF]

Bioarchaeology in the Roman World (MA research, 2002-2005)

On account of differences in the evolution of the field of anthropology in American and Italian scholarship, the role of bioarchaeology has been nearly non-existent in the latter. Numerous scholars over the past two decades have advocated a more holistic approach to Roman archaeology, namely fostering communication between the disciplines of anthropology and classics, yet little has been accomplished towards this goal. A change in the current perception of the Roman world is necessary in order to dismantle long-held assumptions about this culture. The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate the utility of bioarchaeology as applied to the Roman world for framing and answering questions about the lifeways of people in this ancient society.

  • Publications resulting from this research include:
    • Killgrove K. 2005. Bioarchaeology in the Roman World. M.A. Thesis, Department of Classics, University of North Carolina. [PDF]

Defining Relationships between Native American Groups (MA research, 2000-2002)

Analysis of morphological variation in human crania and dentition is the most commonly used tool for assessing biological relationships among groups of people based on skeletal remains. These relationships are often termed “biological distance” or “biodistance.” The biodistance between two populations can be significant based on clearly distinct cranial and dental traits, indicating that the two populations did not have a high degree of interbreeding or cultural interaction or that their genetic ancestries were markedly different. An insignificant biodistance factor, on the other hand, can indicate that two populations had similar genetic make-up in regard to their skeletal remains and thus were likely closely related.

Around the time of European contact with the New World, ethnohistoric accounts state that Native Americans living along the North Carolina coastal plain were split into three groups based on differing languages. Archaeologists have used this information, as well as typology of ossuary sites and material culture, to classify these cultural groups. Skeletal data from 12 sites in North Carolina and two sites in Virginia comprise the archaeological component of this analysis. Comparative archaeological populations from Georgia and Tennessee, as well as a modern Caucasian sample, are examined as well.

Statistical analysis of cranial nonmetric variants from the Algonkian, Iroquoian, and Siouan language groups shows no clear differences among the groups examined. However, most sample populations examined suffer from small sample size and lack of continuity of the skeletal data. Although the data do not unequivocally support divergence among populations on the North Carolina coastal plain during the Late Woodland, they do aid in interpretation of the Hollowell (31CO5) site as culturally affiliated with the Iroquoian group.

  • Publications resulting from this research include:
    • Killgrove K. 2009. Rethinking taxonomies: skeletal variation on the North Carolina coastal plain. Southeastern Archaeology 28(1):87-100.
    • Killgrove K. 2002. Defining Relationships between Native American Groups: a Biodistance Study of the North Carolina Coastal Plain. M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University. [PDF]