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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Staff

Miss Joanna Moore

(email at j.f.moore@durham.ac.uk)

Research Topic

Death Metal: Characterising the effects of lead pollution on mobility and childhood health within the Roman Empire.

Abstract

The use of lead was ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire, including as material for water pipes, eating vessels and as a sweetener for wine. Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead and it is likely that the widespread use of this deadly metal amongst Roman populations led to a range of adverse health effects. Indeed, lead poisoning has even been implicated in the downfall of the Roman Empire. This research examines the direct effect of lead poisoning on the inhabitants of the Empire, and for the first time introduces a bioarchaeological perspective to how lead exposure affected health during the Roman period. The results provide strong evidence that Roman lead pollution contributed to the high prevalence of metabolic diseases during childhood and implicates elevated lead burdens in the high prevalence of infant remains in Roman skeletal assemblages.

Conference contributions

Posters:

  • 2019: ‘Basilar portion porosity: A pathological lesion possibly associated with infantile scurvy’. Bones, Bodies and Disease. University of Bradford.

  • 2017: ‘Investigating the effects of anthropogenic lead pollution on the health and mortality of sub-adults within the Roman Empire’. UKAS.
University College London.

  • 2016: ‘Palaeopathological analysis of a sub-adult population from a late Roman site in Tarraco (Tarragona, Spain)’. 43rd Annual Meeting of the Paleopathology Association. Atlanta, USA.

  • 2015: ‘Environmental lead pollution in the Roman Empire: Characterising its effects on juvenile exposure and childhood health’ BABAO Annual Conference. University of Sheffield.

Papers:

  • 2019: ‘Death Metal: Evidence for the impact of lead poisoning on childhood health within the Roman Empire’. Bones, Bodies and Disease. University of Bradford
  • 2018: ‘IAPETUS placement scheme: Northern Archaeology Associates’ IAPETUS Annual Studentship Conference. Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast.

  • 2016: ‘Bioarchaeological perspectives on the effects of anthropogenic lead pollution on Roman children from Tarragona, Spain’. IAPETUS Annual Studentship Conference. IMEDEA, Mallorca.

  • 2016: ‘Characterising the effects of lead pollution on the health and mortality of a Roman population from Tarragona, Spain‘. Little Lives: New perspectives on Child Health and the life course in Bioarchaeology. SCCIP, Durham University.
  • 2015: ‘Environmental lead pollution in the Roman Empire: Characterising its effects on juvenile exposure and geographic mobility’. IAPETUS Annual Studentship Conference. University of Stirling.

Organiser

  • 2017: ‘Session 356: Mobility and Migration in mortuary archaeology – Methods of investigation and theories of assessment’. 23rd Annual European Association of Archaeology. Maastricht, Netherlands

Publications

Journal Article

Selected Grants

  • 2016: St. Cuthbert's Society Postgraduate Research Grant

Is supervised by