Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsIt is one thing to read stark things about terrible famines in Scotland from the late 16th century through the 17th century but it is quite another to actually see that marked on people’s bodies. And that’s what these individuals can tell us, about the conditions of their lives but we also understand, biologists and palaeopathologists understand, that conditions in the womb, [such as] deprivation, dietary restrictions can affect the child and so these individuals may also be giving us an indication further back in time through the generations of their parents and perhaps even their grandparents.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 secondsSo whilst we read about famine we are actually seeing the effect of long-term deprivation on communities through these people, so we don’t know their names but they are giving us valuable, and I would say privileged, insight into that period of time. We have done isotope analysis on the teeth that allows us to see regions from where these people may have come because the isotopes in the soil affect what they eat and we can therefore tell where they came from. We are going to do more analysis on that. We can do further examination of the skeletal formation to tell us about any trauma, dietary restrictions or other impacts that their lives had on their bones.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 secondsWe are doing three dimensional imaging of the shape of their jaws and their teeth to see what that can tell us about their lives and then, on top of that, the calculus that grows on your teeth is like a time capsule of all sorts of events in your life; diseases, pathogens [contained] in it, we are going to analyse that as well. We are going to do documentary research as far as possible, perhaps identify named relatives, look for wills, look for records in Scottish registers and church records but also records from places that survivors were sent.

Our research programme

In this video historical archaeologist Dr Pam Graves explores the kinds of further investigation which could be undertaken on the human remains, and what new information and knowledge that might bring. As you progress through the course you will be able to see how far Pam’s plans unfolded.

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This video is from the free online course:

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University