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Dr Anita Radini
Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical Humanities



I am an archaeological scientist with over 15 years of experience in both plant micro- and macro-remains. I have extensive fieldwork experience as I have participated in projects in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South-East Asia and North America, authoring over 130 professional reports and over 30 papers in peer-reviewed international journals and edited volumes, including papers in PNAS and Nature Genetics.

Whilst working in the sector of environmental archaeology I developed a strong interest in the complex interactions between ancient people, their living conditions and their health outcomes.

Since 2009, when I started my PhD at the University of York (2009-2016), my research has focused on dental calculus as a means of reconstructing the diet and living conditions of past humans, having examined and published dental calculus microdebris data from numerous assemblages with a worldwide distribution, spanning hominins to Late Medieval humans. 

My current research now focuses on the inequality of human conditions generated by division of labour and its effect on health in past and modern societies. In 2018 I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities (ref 209869/Z/17/Z) for the project 'A Taste of Hard Work: assessing the utility of ancient tartar to track exposure to respiratory irritants of occupational origin in ancient skeletal remains'. In my project I will continue my work on micro-remains entombed in calculus.



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 10,000 bp to 3,500 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. 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. M. Vander Ven who also kindly provided archaeobotanical samples for the project.

In 2005 I joined ULAS as site assistant at the excavation of St Peter’s cemetery  and a Roman site in Vine St. I became Angela Monckton’s  assistant in the Unit's environmental lab in Autumn 2006, and was involved in the post-excavation analysis and reporting on plant macroremains from several excavations. Between 2010 and 2015,  I was ULAS's archaeobotanist. I undertook my PhD self-funded and part-time at York; my thesis title was: Particles of Everyday Life. Diet and Living Condition as shown by Human Dental Calculus: a Case Study from Medieval Leicester.

I was the post-doctoral research assistant on the AHRC-funded project: Melting Pot: Food and Identity in the Age of Vikings (Ashby, Craig 2016-17).

In 2018 I was Visisting Professor at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Sciences at the University of Rome, La Sapienza.  



Departmental roles

I was the Department's laboratory technician (with specialism in archaeobotany) between 2015 and 2018 and was placed on secondment as Post-docotoral Research Asssistant positions.

During such term, I was also the contact between the Department of Archaeology and the Centre of Life Long Learning.



My research focuses on the inequality of living conditions generated by labour divsions in ancient and traditional socities. I aim to promote a novel and cross-disciplinary approach to health, pollution and culture in ancient time and its implications to the modern world.

My project 'A Taste of Hard Work', funded by Wellcome Trust, will elucidate the potential of ancient tartar to reveal exposure to a variety of respiratory irritants and their links to health in past societies by unlocking the signature of inhaled/ingested occupational debris and pollutants generated during crafting. I am applying state-of-the-art microscopic methods in Archaeology and Physics, and working both with experimental archaeology and ancient skeletal material.


I am the PI of the project 'A Taste of Hard Work: assessing the utility of ancient tartar to track exposure to respiratory irritants of occupational origin in ancient skeletal remains'-funded by Wellcome Trust

you can follow the project on:

tweeter: A_Taste_of_Hard_Work@ancient_tartar

Instagram: a_taste_of_hard_work

Website coming soon here:


Research group(s)

I am part of the follwoing research groups:

  • the Biophyics Group led by Dr Roland Kroeger
  • the Microarchaeology Group at the Department of Archaeology
  • the YEAR Centre


 Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities (ref 209869/Z/17/Z)


For my project I collaborate with:

Dr Daniel Antoine, Bioarchaeology - The British Museum

Dr Carl Heron, Director of Scientific Research - The British Museum

Dr Efi Nikita, Associate Professor in Physical Anthropology - STARC, The Cyprus Institute

Dr Chris Malley, SEI - The University of York



I deliver lectures on the subject of Archaeobotany, Microarchaeology and Environmental Archaeology and contribute to the following Modules:

  • Field Archaeology
  • Introduction to Archaeological Science
  • Experimental Archaeology


At Postgraduate level, I contribute to the teaching of Experimental Archaeology.

Other teaching

I am committed to the Continuing Education Sector: I designed and delivered courses and lectures in the Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education Programmes at the Universities of York, Leicester and Oxford, for over 13 years.

External activities


In 2018 I was 'Invited Visiting Professor' at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Sciences at the University of Rome 'La Sapienza'

Contact details

Dr Anita Radini
Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical Humanities
Department of Archaeology
University of York
King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 323940