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Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage

Professor Charlotte Roberts

Charlotte Roberts

Charlotte Roberts is a bioarchaeologist who works on human remains from archaeological sites in order to understand past human history, and particularly the history of human health and disease. She has worked in bioarchaeology since 1983 and on skeletal  remains from North America, Britain and Jordan. Current funded projects include a study of diet, health and mobility as reflected in the early Medieval skeletal remains from the Bowl-Hole cemetery at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (AHRC), an ancient DNA study of tuberculosis from prehistory to the post-Medieval period in Britain and parts of Europe (NERC), a book on the global bioarchaeological study of leprosy (Leverhulme Trust), and a mobility study of late Medieval skeletons from Hull with syphilis (British Academy). She is also working on a book on Medieval women's health in England and the Ohio State University based project on a Global History of Health. Her research has helped to shape our knowledge of health through time particularly in Britain, and has also provided a bioarchaeological perspective on some of the infectious diseases. Beyond her research, she has also been instrumental in developing masters level courses in the study of human remains, been key to the development of standards for recording of skeletal remains in Britain, and contributed to the increased popularity of bioarchaeology in Britain. She regularly contributes and presents her expertise and research in the media and through public lectures, practices she feels is essential for any academic.

In recent years she has become involved with issues related to excavating, analyzing and curating human remains, and particularly with developing agendas for the future care of this important archaeological resource. For example, she was invited in 2007 by the Natural History Museum in London to be a member of the (overseas) Human Remains Data Collection Workshop, one of five senior bioanthropologists, and also to be a consultant for the work conducted on the Tasmanian human remains prior to repatriation, and in 2006 was invited to be a member of Human Remains Advisory Service for Dept. of Culture Media and Sport (one year starting January 2006). She has also recently (2008) made contributions to the British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology's development of a Code of Ethics for Human Remains. She is committed to opening dialogue amongst all interested parties about the excavation, analysis, curation and value of human remains from archaeological sites. Her recent book (2009) devotes a chapter to ethics and human remains.

Her key publications include:

Roberts, C.A. 2010. Adaptation of populations to changing environments: Bioarchaeological perspectives on health for the past, present and future. Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d'Anthropologie de Paris 22(1-2): 38-46.

Roberts, C.A. 2009. Mortui viventes docent (the dead teach the living). The Archaeologist: 32-33.

Roberts, C.A. 2009. Health and welfare in medieval England: the human remains contextualised. In R Gilchrist, A Reynolds (eds) Reflections:50 years of medieval archaeology 1957-2007. Society of Medieval Archaeology Monograph. Leeds: Maney Publishers. 307-325.

Stone, A.C., A.K. Wilbur, J.E. Buikstra, C.A. Roberts. 2009. Mycobacterial disease in perspective. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 52: 66-94.

Wilbur, A.K., A.C. Stone, C.A. Roberts, L. Pfister, J.E. Buikstra, T.A. Brown. 2009. Deficiencies and challenges in the study of ancient tuberculosis DNA. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1990-1997.

Roberts, C.A. 2009. Human Remains in Archaeology: a handbook. York: Council for British Archaeology.

Roberts, C.A. 2009. Commentary - understanding health: past and present. Part 1: Health risks and disease in transition. In C. Panter-Brick and A. Fuentes (eds) Health, Risk and Adversity. Cambridge University Press, pp. 13-25.

Roberts, C. and J.E. Buikstra. 2008. The Bioarchaeology of Tuberculosis: a global perspective on a re-emerging disease. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.  

Roberts, C.A. and S. Ingham. 2008. Using ancient DNA analysis in palaeopathology: a critical analysis of published papers with recommendations for future work. Int. J. Osteoarchaeology 18: 600-613.

Roberts, C.A. 2007. A bioarchaeological study of maxillary sinusitis. American J. Physical Anthropology 133:792-807.

Roberts, C.A. and M. Cox. 2007. The impact of economic intensification and social complexity on human health in Britain from 6000 BP (Neolithic) and the introduction of farming to the mid 19th century AD.  In M. Cohen and G. Crane-Kramer (eds) Ancient Health: skeletal indicators of economic and political intensification. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 149-163.

Roberts, C.A. 2006. A view from afar: bioarchaeology in Britain. In J. Buikstra and L. Beck (eds): Bioarchaeology: contextual analysis of human remains.  Elsevier. 417-439.

Roberts, C.A. and K. Manchester. 2005. The Archaeology of Disease (3rd edition). Gloucester: Sutton Publishing and Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Roberts, C.A. and B. Connell. 2004. Palaeopathology. In M. Brickley and J.I. McKinley (eds) Recording Guidelines for the Standards for Human Remains. Institute of Field Archaeologists Paper 7. 34-39.

Roberts, C. and M. Cox. 2003. Health and Disease in Britain: from prehistory to the present day. Sutton Publishing

Roberts, C.A., M.E. Lewis and K. Manchester (eds). 2002. The Past and Present of Leprosy: archaeological, historical, palaeopathological and clinical approaches. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1054. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Caffell, A.C., C.A. Roberts, R.C. Janaway and A. Wilson. 2001. Pressures on osteological collections: the importance of damage limitation. In E. Williams (ed) Human Remains: conservation, retrieval and analysis.  British Archaeological Reports International Series 934. Oxford: Archaeopress. 187-197.

Janaway R.C., A. Wilson, A.C. Caffell and C.A Roberts. 2001. Human skeletal collections: the responsibilities of project managers, physical anthropologists and conservators, and the need for standardized condition assessment. In E Williams (ed) Human Remains: conservation, retrieval and analysis. British Archaeological Reports International Series 934.Oxford: Archaeopress. 199-208.

Santos, A. and C.A. Roberts.  2001. A picture of tuberculosis in young Portuguese people in the early 20th century. American .J. Physical Anthropology 115: 38-49

Roberts, C.A.  2000. Did they take sugar? The use of skeletal evidence in the study of disability in past populations. In J Hubert (ed) Madness, Disability and Social Exclusion: the archaeology and anthropology of difference. London: Routledge. 46-59.


Charlotte Roberts' Departmental Page