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Mary Lewis

  • Head of Archaeological Science
  • Programme Director of MSc Professional Human Osteoarchaeology.

Areas of interest

  • Child Paleopathology
  • Child growth and development
  • Osteology of the life course
  • Adolescence and puberty
  • Medieval and Roman Child Health.

Postgraduate supervision

Mary is happy to discuss proposals for postgraduate research in any area of bioarchaeology, but especially palaeopathology and non-adult osteology. For further information, please contact m.e.lewis@reading.ac.uk.

Mary has supervised students on a variety of topics in bioarchaeology (forensic anthropology, adult ageing and the life course, urbanisation and health, puberty assessment; Roman transitions). She currently supervises the following postgraduate projects:

  • Cribra orbitalia, Cribra Humeralis and Cribra Femoralis: understanding their aetiology.
  • An evaluation of the impact of famine and plague on childhood stress and adult health in medieval England.
  • Ageing and the Aged: The Social and Physical Implications of Senescence AD 900 - 1550.
  • 'Be Thou Dead to the World, but Alive unto God': Defining the Diagnosis and Evolution of Leprosy using the evidence of Child and Adult Skeletal Remains.
  • Transitions to adulthood in Anglo-Saxon England, 5th to 10th century CE: an osteological and stable isotopic investigation into the timing of puberty and the impact of dietary stress.

Previous graduates include:

  • Emily Carroll (SWW DTP Studentship, with Dr Muldner): No smoke without fire: cremation practices in Late Iron Age and Roman Hertfordshire. Funerary responses to cultural, social and technological transitions.
  • Sasha Valme (International student): Adolescence and the Age of Puberty in Post-Medieval England.
  • Candace McGovern (International student): Coming of Age as a Woman in Roman Britain: physical development and the life course from puberty through adulthood.
  • Cecilia Collins (International student): Upper Respiratory Tract Disease in a Medieval Icelandic Population." Graduated 2019.
  • Anna Rohnbogner (AHRC Studentship, with Professor Eckardt): Dying young: a palaeopathological analysis of child health in Roman Britain. Graduated 2015. Anna currently works as an Outreach officer at the University of Gloucester.
  • Petra Verlinden (Leverhulme Trust Studentship): Child's Play? A new methodology for the identification of trauma in non-adult skeletal remains. Graduated 2015. Petra currently works as an Osteology Demonstrator at the University of Sheffield.
  • Rebecca Watts (AHRC Studentship): Childhood development and adult longevity in archaeological populations from medieval and post-Medieval England (AD 950-1855). Graduated 2014. Rebecca currently works as an osteoarchaeologist for AOC Archaeology.
  • Margaret Andrews (with Dr Gabor Thomas): The palaeopathology of the Romano-British to early Medieval Transition in Southern Britain. Graduated 2014. Margaret is a General Medical Practitioner.
  • Ceri Falys (International student, AHRC Studentship): Extending the Life Course: developing new methods for identifying the elderly in the archaeological record. Graduated 2012. Ceri is the Head Osteoarchaeologist at TVAS, Reading.
  • Justine Tracey (with Professor Richard Bradley): Cultural behaviour or Natural Processes? A review of Southern Britain Iron Age Skeletal Remains. Graduated 2011. Justine works as a civil servant.
  • Maria Jelaca-Tavakoli (International student): A forensic approach to estimation of stature from dimensions of the skeletonised lumbar and sacral spine. Graduated 2008. Maria teaches Anthropology at Southwestern College, California.

Teaching

Mary teaches the method and theory behind the study of human skeletal remains, osteological techniques, and palaeopathology at undergraduate and master's level.

She is convenor for:

  • Forensic Anthropology and the Archaeology of Death (Year 1)
  • Biological Anthropology (Year 3)
  • In at the Deep End: Professional Human Osteoarchaeology
  • Analysis of Human Remains
  • Palaeopathology of Adults and Children (master's).

She also teaches on Bioarchaeology (Year 2).

Research projects

Mary's research primarily aims to enhance our knowledge of diseases in children from archaeological contexts (palaeopathology). This includes devising new diagnostic criteria (e.g. endocranial lesions, thalassaemia, TB etc.) and exploring social questions such as the impact of urbanisation, work and migration on child health.

Her research has focused on child health in Roman Britain, stemming from an AHRC-funded Roman Diaspora Project (2007-9), and the health and movement of medieval apprentices (Leverhulme Trust, 2012-4), both previously neglected subjects in bioarchaeology.

Her work and that of her research students has broadened osteological techniques used to explore aspects of the life course (infancy, childhood, adolescence and old age), including the development of a new method to identify the stages of puberty in skeletal remains.

Watch a video based on Mary's 'medieval adolescent' research

Academic qualifications

  • BA, University of Leicester
  • MSc, PhD, University of Bradford.

Selected publications

  • Lewis, M.E. and Rutty, G. (2003) "Endangered Children: the personal identification of children in forensic anthropology". Science and Justice 43(4): 201-209
  • Lewis, M.E. (2002) "The impact of industrialisation: comparative study of child health in four sites from medieval and post-medieval England (850-1859)". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 119(3): 211-223.
  • Lewis, M.E. and Roberts C.A. (1997) "Growing pains: the interpretation of stress indicators". International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 7: 581-586
  • Lewis, M.E. and Roberts C.A. (1996) "A comparative study of the prevalence of maxillary sinusitis in medieval urban and rural populations in Northern England". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 98(4): 497-506.
  • Lewis, M.E., Roberts C.A. and Manchester, K. (1995) "Inflammatory bone changes in the leprous skeletons from the medieval hospital of St. James and St. Mary Magdalene". International Journal of Leprosy Vol. 63(1): 77-85.

External responsbilities

Mary is Associate Editor for the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and the International Journal of palaeopathology, and sits on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. She is the author of two single-authored books: Paleopathology of Children (Academic Press, 2018) and The Bioarchaeology of Children (CUP, 2007).

Mary's Lansdowne Lecture at the University of Victoria was delivered by Mary on 22 January 2019 and is available online to watch and download: Teenage kicks: osteological evidence for the lived experience of adolescents in medieval England (AD 900 - 1550).

Publications