Women’s Health in the Roman Period

This wide ranging project is investigating female skeletal health in the Roman period using osteological, funerary and isotope analysis of the skeletons recovered from the Roman cemetery at Hungate, York, to understand Roman female status, health, diet and migration.

The research of this subject is taking a multi-pronged approach, starting with osteological and palaeopathological analysis of the females already identified in the Hungate collection, which consists of 112 inhumed skeletons. While there is often a dominance of male skeletons in Roman cemeteries, it is known that many of the skeletons recovered from Hungate were female and that several of these had lived to old middle or mature adulthood, suggesting longevity beyond childbearing years. We are therefore investigating the childhood and adult health of these Roman women and comparing this with the previously published Roman data from cemeteries in other urban centres.

The project also aims to explore funerary analysis of grave goods buried with the females from Hungate and compare these with those found with males and non-adults, which could further contribute to our understanding of female status in the Roman period. Particular focus will be made on jet items and animal grave goods, such as chickens, since both were recovered from Hungate.

The project may also give us the opportunity to investigate diet and migration for the whole population, using carbon and nitrogen and strontium oxygen isotope analysis, which, together with the other analyses, could provide a comprehensive investigation into Roman female health and diet.

 

The Hungate skeletons

Graves with chicken bones

Jet material recovered from the Hungate excavation