Press Releases

Archaeology experts speak at BA Festival of Science – University of Reading

Release Date : 01 September 2004

A SkullThree eminent archaeologists from the University of Reading's top-rated Archaeology Department were among some 400 of the UK's leading scientists appearing at his year's BA Festival of Science. Thousands of people are expected to attend the world-renowned event, which takes place at the University of Exeter between Saturday 4 September and Saturday 11 September, 2004. Dr Stuart Black, Dr Mary Lewis and Professor Roberta Gilchrist were involved in a session entitled Recent Advances in Forensic and Archaeological Sciences. When human skeletal remains are suspected in a clandestine grave, forensic archaeologists are often asked to locate, excavate, identify and date the remains. This event looked at recent advances in this field. Dr Black, who chaired the session, gave a lecture called We are where, and when, we eat, drink and breathe. He looked at how 'isotopes' (atoms with the same atomic number, but with different mass numbers) can be used to date skeletal remains and even to work out where living people come from if their country of origin is unknown. This revolutionary technique of using isotopes could, in the future, be of tremendous help to police investigations after unidentified human remains are found. Moreover, being able to establish where living people originate from – and where they have been – would be of great value in combating terrorism. Dr Lewis, a forensic anthropologist, discussed the issues involved with examining child skeletal remains in a paper entitled Children in forensic and archaeological sciences. The emotions surrounding the loss of a child, and the recovery and identification of these often tiny remains, make this a particularly challenging area of study. Methods used to age, sex and provide a personal identification for a child's skeletal remains were discussed in light of recent scientific advances and forensic case studies. Professor Gilchrist delivered a talk entitled The archaeology of human remains: life and death in the medieval monastery. She discussed archaeological approaches to human remains, using recent research on medieval monasteries as a case study. The cultural context of medieval burial were looked at, and skeletal evidence discussed in relation to monastic lifestyle, and questions of diet, disease and life expectancy. end For media enquiries please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading press officer. Tel: 0118 378 7388 Email:


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