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Department of Archaeology


Mrs Elina Petersone-Gordina

(email at


I hold a BA (Hons) in Ancient History and Archaeology from Newcastle University (2009) and an MSc in Palaeopathology with distinction from Durham University (2011). Before starting my PhD in October 2014, I was working as a researcher in the project ‘Ethnographical, Dendrochronological and Bioarchaeological research of the Latvian Cultural Heritage from 13th– 21st centuries’ (Grant of the Latvian Council of Science Nr 09.1535). 

Research topic

My research is focused on palaeopathological and isotopic data from individuals buried in a large post-medieval cemetery from Riga, Latvia, as well as comparative data from contemporary cemeteries in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.


Living outside the city gates: a palaeopathological, isotopic and comparative analysis of the post-medieval St Gertrude Church cemetery population in Riga, Latvia

The current research is based on the complex site of the St Gertrude Church cemetery (SGCC) in Riga, Latvia, dating from the 15th - 17th centuries AD. This study will analyse health-related stress and diet in the moderately wealthy SGCC population and compare the data between the three main burial contexts: the main cemetery, which served Gertrude village (GC), and two mass graves (MGs), in which, according to historical accounts, poor rural immigrants from the Vidzeme region (north-east of Riga), might have been interred during the famine of 1602-3 AD. It is anticipated that the analysis will provide unique evidence for overall general quality of life in the population from Gertrude and help to identify whether the people buried in the mass graves represent a different “population” group. To achieve this, both skeletal and isotopic analysis will be used.

To view the SGCC in its regional context, previously published data on skeletal stress markers from contemporary urban and rural cemetery populations in the Baltic countries will be compiled and used for comparative purposes. The resulting dataset should demonstrate whether there are significant differences in general health status between post-medieval urban and rural populations in the Baltic region and explore the reasons for disparities. The scarcity of bioarchaeological research in Eastern Europe and the need for detailed and comparable data from the region makes this project an important contribution for future population health studies.

Conference contributions


2016: Pētersone-Gordina, E. and Gerhards, G. ‘Evidence for venereal syphilis in post-medieval Riga, Latvia’ (Podium presentation at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the EAA in Vilnius, Lithuania, August 31 – September 4).

2015: Pētersone-Gordina, E., Roberts, C.A., Millard, A.R., Montgomery, J. and Gerhards, G. ‘Dental Disease and Dietary Isotopic Analysis in the Adult Population of the St Gertrude Church Cemetery from Riga, Latvia (15th - 18th century AD)’ (podium presentation at the 17th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology & Osteoarchaeology in Sheffield, UK, September 18-20).

2015: Gerhards, G., Pētersone-Gordina, E., and Jakob, T. ‘Palaeopathological analysis of individuals buried in the Riga Dome Church cemetery (13th - 17th centuries) in Riga, Latvia’ (podium presentation at the 4th Baltic Bioarchaeology Meeting in Odense, Denmark, August 24-26).

2014: Pētersone-Gordina, E ., Jakob, T., Gerhards, G. ‘A study of woven new bone in individuals aged 0-6 years from six different skeletal populations’ (podium presentation at the 3rd Baltic Bioarchaeology Meeting in Riga, Latvia, May 14th – 17th).

2012: Gerhards, G., Pētersone-Gordina, E. ‘An insight in the quality of life of the 17th – 18th century population of Jelgava (Latvia)’ (podium presentation at the international conference The State in the west of Latvia: Duchy of Courland and Semigallia – 450, September 21st – 22nd).

2011: Pētersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G., Jakob, T. ‘Diagnosing scurvy in archaeological populations: theory and practice’ (podium presentation at the 2nd Baltic Bioarchaeology Meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, August 21st – 24th).

2011: Pētersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G., Jakob, T. ‘Scurvy in a post-medieval population from Jelgava, Latvia’ (podium presentation at the 13th Annual BABAO conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, September 2nd – 4th). 



2016: Petersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G. and Jakob, T. ‘Segregation of burial areas in the Riga Dome Church cemetery (13th-17th centuries) in Riga, Latvia’ (poster presentation at the 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, April 13-16).

2016: Petersone-Gordina, E., Roberts, C.A. and Gerhards, G. ‘A skeleton with probable leprosy from a post-medieval cemetery in Riga, Latvia’ (poster presentation at the 43rd Annual North American Paleopathology Association Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, April 12-13).

2016: Petersone-Gordina, E., Jakob, T. and Gerhards, G. ‘A study of woven new bone in individuals aged 0-6 years from six different skeletal populations’ (poster presentation at the conference Little Lives: New Perspectives on Child Health and the Life Course in Bioarchaeology in Durham, UK, 30th January).

2014: Petersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G., Jakob, T., Roberts, C., Zarina, G. ‘Differential diagnoses of bending deformities in a non-adult skeleton from St Peter’s Church cemetery in Riga, Latvia’ (poster presentation at the 16th Annual BABAO conference in Durham, England, September 12th – 14th).

2013: Pētersone-Gordina, E., Jakob, T., Gerhards, G. ‘A Study of Growth-Related Versus Pathological New Bone Formation in Non-Adult Skeletal Remains Aged 0-6 Years’ (poster presentation at the 15th Annual BABAO conference in York, England, September 13th – 15th).

2012: Pētersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G., Jakob, T. ‘Normal bone growth versus abnormal new bone formation and porosities in non-adult individuals from post-medieval Jelgava, Latvia (17th – 18th c. CE)’ (poster presentation at the 19th European meeting of the paleopathology association in Lille, France, August 27th – 29th).

Grant information

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Doctoral Scholarship, grant number 1372703; and the Wadsworth International Fellowship from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.


Gerhards, G., Pētersone-Gordina, E. & Krūmiņa, Z. (2017) ‘Palaeopathological evidence of infectious disease in a skeletal population from Late Medieval Riga, Latvia (15th – 17th centuries AD)’, in Proceedings of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, Section B: Natural, Exact, and Applied Sciences, 71: 20-30 (in press).

Pētersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G., Jakob, T. (2013) ‘Nutrition-related health problems in a wealthy 17th – 18th century German community in Jelgava, Latvia’, in International Journal of Paleopathology 3(1): 30-38.

Pētersone-Gordina, E., Gerhards, G. (2011) ‘Dental disease in a 17th – 18th century German community in Jelgava, Latvia’, in Papers on Anthropology 20: 327- 350.

Teaching commitments

Lab demonstrator for the MSc Palaeopathology module Identification and Analysis of the Normal Human Skeleton (October-December 2015).