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 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. 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' 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 Posistions.

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.


Selected Publications

Radini, A., Nikita, E., Buckley, S., Copland, L., Hardy, K. 2017. Beyond Food: The multiple pathways for inclusion of materials into ancient dental calculus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 162(S63), pp.71-83.

Mackie, M., Radini, A. & Speller, C. F. 2017. The Sustainability of Dental Calculus for Archaeological Research. In: Shallow Pasts, Endless Horizons: Sustainability & Archaeology. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Chacmool Archaeology Conference, University of Calgary 

Irby, G.L., McCall, R. and Radini, A., 2016. “Ecology” in the ancient Mediterranean. A Companion to Science, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Greece and Rome, 2 Volume Set, 144, p.296.

Hardy, K., Radini, A., Buckley, S., Blasco, R., Copeland, L., Burjachs, F., Girbal, J., Yll, R., Carbonell, Bermúdez de Castro, J.M. 2016. Diet and environment 1.2 million years ago revealed through analysis of dental calculus from Europe’s oldest hominin at Sima del Elefante, Spain. Naturwissenschaften

Radini, A., Buckley, S., Rosas, A., Estalrrich, A., de la Rasilla, M. and Hardy, K., 2016. Neanderthals, trees and dental calculus: new evidence from El Sidron. Antiquity, 90(350), pp.290- 301.

Radini, A., Nikita, E., Shillito, L. M., 2016. ‘Human Dental Calculus and a Medieval Urban Environment’ In: B. Jervis, L. Broderick and I. Grau B. (eds) Everyday Life in Medieval Europe: Environmental and Artefactual Approaches to Dwelling in Town and Country' Brepols

Cristiani, E., Radini, A., Edinborough, M. and Boric, D., 2016. Dental calculus reveals Mesolithic foragers in the Balkans consumed domesticated plant foods. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(37), pp.10298-10303.

Radini, A., 2016. The charred plant remains and pollen analysis. In: Speed, G. A pit alignment, Iron Age settlement and Roman cultivation trenches west of South Meadow Road, Upton, Northampton’. Northamptonshire Archaeology 38, 53-72.

Heron, C., Habu, J., Owens, M.K., Ito, Y., Eley, Y., Lucquin, A., Radini, A., Saul, H., Spiteri, C.D. and Craig, O.E., 2016. Molecular and isotopic investigations of pottery and ‘charred remains’ from Sannai Maruyama and Sannai Maruyama No. 9, Aomori Prefecture, Japan.

Lucarini, G., Radini, A., Barton, H. and Barker, G., 2016. The exploitation of wild plants in Neolithic North Africa. Use-wear and residue analysis on non-knapped stone tools from the Haua Fteah cave, Cyrenaica, Libya. Quaternary International http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2015.11.109

Croft, S., Monnier, G., Radini, A., Little, A., Milner, N., 2016. Lithic residue survival and characterisation at Star Carr: a burial experiment. Internet Archaeology 42. http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.42.5

Lucquin, A., Gibbs, K., Uchiyama, J., Saul, H., Ajimoto, M., Eley, Y., Radini, A., Heron, C.P., Shoda, S., Nishida, Y. and Lundy, J., 2016. Ancient lipids document continuity in the use of early hunter–gatherer pottery through 9,000 years of Japanese prehistory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201522908.

Hardy, K., Radini, A., Buckley, S., Sarig, R., Copeland, L., Gopher, A. and Barkai, R., 2015. Dental calculus reveals potential respiratory irritants and ingestion of essential plant-based nutrients at Lower Palaeolithic Qesem Cave Israel. Quaternary International, 30, p.1e7

Buckley, S., Usai, D., Jakob, T., Radini, A. and Hardy, K., 2014. Dental calculus reveals unique insights into food items, cooking and plant processing in prehistoric central Sudan. PloS one, 9(7), p.e 100808

Warinner, C., Rodrigues, J.F., Vyas, R., Trachsel, C., Shved, N., Grossmann, J., Radini, A., Hancock, Y., Tito, R.Y., Fiddyment, S., Speller, C., et al. 2014. Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity. Nature genetics, 46(4), pp.336-344.

Radini, A., 2013 ‘The Environmental data’ in: N. Christie and O. Creighton, with H. Hamerow and M. Edgeworth, Transforming Townscapes. From Borough to Borough: The Archaeology of Wallingford, AD 800-1400. (Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 35). SMA: London, pp. 312,325-327

Terradas-Batlle, X., Ibáñez, J. J., Braemer, F., Hardy, K., Iriarte, E., Madella, M., Ortega, I C. , Radini, A., and Teira , L. 2013. Natufian bedrock mortars at Qarassa 3: Preliminary results from an interdisciplinary methodology. In: Ferran Borrell; Juan José Ibáñez; Miquel Molist (editors) Stone Tools in Transition: From Hunter-Gatherers to Farming Societies in the Near East Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Servei de Publicacions Bellaterra



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: https://taste-of-hard-work.net


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 proejct 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 Univerisy 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 comitted to the Continuing Education Sector: I desinged and delivered Courses and Lectures in the Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education Programmes at the University 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 Univeristy 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