Centre for
Human
Bioarchaeology
Curation and Continued Research
of Human Remains
Jelena Bekvalac
Centre for Human
Bioarchaeology (CHB)
• Established 2003 - Wellcome funding
• Curation of c.17,000 stratified human skelet...
THE W.O.R.D DATABASE
• The Wellcome Osteological Research Database -
W.OR.D Database is an Oracle database
• Implemented b...
Role of the Centre
• Curation
• Collection care
• Documentation
• Enable access to
collections
• Encourage & assist
studen...
Exhibitions
MIN86 11090, St Mary Graces
Wellcome Collection image from the exhibition
London's Buried Bones
Access to collections
•On line data
downloadable
•Research bench spaces
in CHB
•Application process
•National and
Internat...
Benefits of On Line Database
Database
• Standardised recording
• Acts as conservation
tool
• Downloadable
information on l...
Where are the skeletons from?
Building developments
Inhumations/Cremations
Truncation from reuse of grave
Mass burials
Mon...
Preservation and completeness
Nails
Hair
Dentures
Truncation/dissection
Foetus
Gallstone??
Curation and storage
Conservation standard packing of human
skeletal remains
Rotunda store
Collection care – Destructive
Sampling
•Maintaining integrity of skeletal
collections
•Long term survival of collections
•...
What can we learn from the
skeletons?
• Indicators of health & diet
• Diseases affecting the bones
• Dental disease
• Metr...
William Wood – Chelsea Old
Church (Butcher & Beadle)
Edentulous
DISH Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal
Hyperostosis - Fusion of ...
Types of Research
• Medical
• Social
• Forensic
• Scientific –
sampling
• Disease specific
• Comparative
studies – other
t...
Future
• Continued dissemination &
accessibility
• Assist making research
approachable & accessible
• Open up database
fur...
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Centre for Human Bioarchaeology

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Images from a presentation to the Thames Discovery Programme Riverpedia Human Remains workshop by Jelena Bekvalac (MoL), November 2010

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  • Examples of what else might preserve in an archaeological context
    And why careful recovery is so important
    Hair
    Bladder/gall stones
    Dentures
    Nails
    Foetus in-situ in womb
    Dissection with more than on individual
  • Chemical analysis although destructive sometimes only option to get certain answers with relation to acute diseases egg plague, TB and leprosy – recent results from tests at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz identified the pathogen from sampling teeth and bones from individuals dies of plague – Black Death – Yersinia pestis identified and two new types. We await results from tests taken from MIN86
  • Post Med cemeteries large number of individuals – difference in social status – see increase in certain diseases – indicators of environment and living conditions. For some have coffin plates and so able to identify the individual all of us have names but we do not know them in all the individuals we curate but a few we do – Chelsea Old Church, St Bride’s and Spitalfields – invaluable information about the individual but also help with ageing techniques, medical research if have families. Really able to place them into the context of their time and learn even more about them by accessing documentary evidence – birth records, marriage, death certificate post 1837 and wills
  • Centre for Human Bioarchaeology

    1. 1. Centre for Human Bioarchaeology Curation and Continued Research of Human Remains Jelena Bekvalac
    2. 2. Centre for Human Bioarchaeology (CHB) • Established 2003 - Wellcome funding • Curation of c.17,000 stratified human skeletal remains • Roman, Medieval & Post Medieval • 2,000 years of London’s history & development • Unique insight into population of London • Excavations City of London & Greater London • On-line 2007- Widen access to collection • Generate public awareness around Human skeletal research
    3. 3. THE W.O.R.D DATABASE • The Wellcome Osteological Research Database - W.OR.D Database is an Oracle database • Implemented by Brian Connell and Peter Rauxloh as a rapid method of recording • Valuable Research Engine-Input and Output of data • Standardised information for each recorded skeleton • Extraction of data can relate either only to the skeletal material or linked with the archaeology- London Archaeological Archive Resource Centre (LAARC)
    4. 4. Role of the Centre • Curation • Collection care • Documentation • Enable access to collections • Encourage & assist student research • Promote multi disciplinary research • Collaboration and comparison • Conferences • Publications • Teaching courses for public • Outreach events – open days • Volunteers • Study days • Exhibitions Skeletons –Wellcome exhibition British Dental Association Museum
    5. 5. Exhibitions MIN86 11090, St Mary Graces Wellcome Collection image from the exhibition London's Buried Bones
    6. 6. Access to collections •On line data downloadable •Research bench spaces in CHB •Application process •National and International access •Link to LAARC records •Outreach public events
    7. 7. Benefits of On Line Database Database • Standardised recording • Acts as conservation tool • Downloadable information on line • Large quantative source for statistical analysis • Record of sampling Website • Comparative sites available in summarises and raw format • Previous research • Linked sources – archaeological, historical documentary
    8. 8. Where are the skeletons from? Building developments Inhumations/Cremations Truncation from reuse of grave Mass burials Monastic cemeteries Parish cemeteries Paupers cemeteries Hospital cemeteries Photos by Museum of London Archaeology
    9. 9. Preservation and completeness Nails Hair Dentures Truncation/dissection Foetus Gallstone??
    10. 10. Curation and storage Conservation standard packing of human skeletal remains Rotunda store
    11. 11. Collection care – Destructive Sampling •Maintaining integrity of skeletal collections •Long term survival of collections •Advancement in techniques •New research •Application process for proposals specifically for destructive sampling •Collective decision – Human Remains Committee SB79 87
    12. 12. What can we learn from the skeletons? • Indicators of health & diet • Diseases affecting the bones • Dental disease • Metrics e.g. stature • Indicators of lifestyle & environment • Chemical analysis of teeth & bones – ancient DNA, stable isotopes, protein analysis
    13. 13. William Wood – Chelsea Old Church (Butcher & Beadle) Edentulous DISH Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis - Fusion of the spine – right side - “Candle wax”
    14. 14. Types of Research • Medical • Social • Forensic • Scientific – sampling • Disease specific • Comparative studies – other time periods, locations • Interpretive • Dissemination of information in publications - journals/books
    15. 15. Future • Continued dissemination & accessibility • Assist making research approachable & accessible • Open up database further/encourage standardised recording • Use as a dynamic tool for research • Qualitative research & collaboration • Archive assemblages for other units • Retain assemblages (if possible) -Virtual collections- record even if reburied for demographic comparison • Reburial pressure liaison with institutes at early stage for research • Other skeletal collections available on line • Outreach

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