People, diet and living conditions in Leicester and surrounding areas from early to late medieval times: an integrated archaeobotanical approach
Supervisor: Dr Allan Hall
My research targets diet and urban environment and their changes from the early to post-medieval periods in Leicester and the Leicestershire countryside, in order to provide new insights into living conditions, food production, consumption and trade in the town and its surroundings and how they have changed through the medieval period.
In the last few years, major archaeological investigations have been carried out in Leicester as part of major re-development of the city centre. As a result of these excavations a large volume of new information has become available with particular reference to the history of food preparation and consumption and to the living conditions of people in the city. Constraints on time and funding have meant that only a part of the rich material available has been studied so far. My PhD aims to re-examine the data obtained to date through commercial archaeology (in particular sites dug by University of Leicester Archaeological Services) and integrate these with new data obtained from the study of samples not previously analysed through lack of funding.
I am using traditional methods of analysis of macrofossil plant remains, augmented by studies of intestinal parasites, and integrating these results with data from analyses, by others, of domestic and wild animals and the stratigraphic and artefactual records. In addition I have access to a large collection of skeletal remains from Leicester (medieval St Peter's Church and the lost Church of St Michael) for which I am analysing dental calculus to provide a different, but complementary, angle on the evidence for food consumption, diet, and living conditions.
I graduated at the Universita' degli Studi di Milano (Milan, Italy) in 2003, in Natural Sciences, specialising in Palaeobiology; my degree was awared as Laurea Magna cum Laude. My thesis involved the archaeobotanical anlaysis of selected dung layers and occupational deposits from caves and shelters in the Central Sahara, dating from 10000 bp to 3500 bp. The aim of the project was to understand changes in the paleoeconomy of hunter-gathers and later pastoral communities in relation to the environmental changes that affected the region during the Holocene. The samples and plant materials for my study were dug by the Italo-Libyan Mission in Tadrart Acacus, for which my supervisor, Prof. Mauro Cremaschi, was Vice Director. I also used plant macro-remains in conjunction with plant micro-remains from thin sections of soil, in order to better understand the taphonomic processes that generated the archaeobotanical assemblages.
I moved to the UK shortly after my Laurea, and gained a Masters Degree in “Archaeology of Food”, at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, in January 2005. My dissertation aimed to test the possibility and needs in the use FIBS ( Functional Interpretation of Botanical Surveys ) to reconstruct crop husbandry practice in Romano-Libyan agriculture. The project was supervised by Prof. Marijke van der Veen, who also kindly provided archaeobotanical samples for the project.
In 2005 I also joined ULAS as site assistant at the excavation of St Peter’s cemetery and a Roman site in Vine St. I then became Angela Monckton’s assistant in the environmental lab. of the Unit in Autumn 2006 when I was involved in the post-excavation analysis and reporting on plant macroremains from several excavations. I now split my time between the lab. and the field. Since 2010, with Angela's retirement, I am in post as the archaeobotanist for the Unit. I am now employed part-time which allows the time for me to study for this PhD.
I have been involved in archaeological excavations since I was fifteen, when I joined the ‘Gruppo Archeologico Romano’ in the excavation of the Roman Villa ‘La Fontanaccia’ (Tolfa, Italy), near the Etruscan archaeological area of Cerveteri. Since then I have taken part in several excavations and surveys in Italy (Fumane, Poviglio, Ad Nova in Cesentaico), Libya (Desert Migrations Project in Fezzan, Terrhuna and Ghadames Archaeological Surveys), and in England (associated with the large urban redevelopment of the city of Leicester).
I am currently archaeobtanist for the following projects:
These projects were new excavations and surveys which provided completely new sets of data. As they are new projects, the analyses and reports are still on going and the results will be soon subject of publications.