Accessibility statement

Sarah Delaney

Research Project

Invisible Environments: reconstructing Medieval Lifeways using microparticles in Ancient Human Dental Calculus

Supervisor: Michelle Alexander


My research aims to use stable isotope analysis, and micro-debris analysis of dental calculus to examine the diet and lifeways of individuals found at a wide range of types of medieval sites, including rural, urban, and male and female monastic sites, as well as a hospital site. The variety of sites allows for the study of individual and populations variation due to different types of environments, and examine different access to foods and occupations during this period, along possibly being able to make inferences regarding respiratory health.
This project will use stable isotope analysis on bone and teeth and micro-debris analysis of dental calculus together with already available osteological data from osteoarchaeological reports, such as evidence of sinusitis or other respiratory issues, to explore the potential of using these methods in conjunction. This also is currently one of the few studies to examine female monastic diet using stable isotopes, as well as one of the first to use micro-debris analysis in conjunction with stable isotopes.
This research will generate a unique dataset of dietary variation, using a combination of historical and biomolecular data that offers an unparalleled opportunity to compare assemblages and individual biographies. In addition, the results will also provide some of the first data on lifeways of those from medieval nunneries and will improve current understanding of dietary variations during this period as the current knowledge indicates that there was different access foods between rural and urban as result of access to different foods due location, as well as the increase of trade and growing urban centres likely contributed to a growing difference in diet. Dietary variation was also present between different statuses and monastic houses. 


I undertook my undergraduate degree in archaeology at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, between 2012-2015. I completed my masters here, at the University of York, in bioarchaeology, 2015-2016. My masters dissertation used stable isotope analysis of bone collagen, dentin, and hair and nail keratin from individuals from Postmedieval Square Chapel, Halifax to examine population diet and individual dietary variation.

Contact details

Ms Sarah Delaney
Research Student
University of York
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD