Bodies of Water: Health Trade-offs and Climate Change in British Wetlands during the First Millennium AD

Year of award: 2022


  • Dr Ellen Kendall

    University of Durham, United Kingdom

Project summary

Wetlands play critical roles in maintaining the health of the planet, but present a complex range of challenges and benefits for the humans who inhabit them. This project utilises an integrated bioarchaeological approach to explore human health trade-offs in British wetlands during periods of climatic stability and crisis over the first millennium AD. The project will primarily focus on gathering skeletal evidence of childhood health, as childhood is a period of heightened sensitivity to environmental stressors. Analysis of a range of skeletal and biomolecular indicators will identify disruptions in metabolism, growth, and development, as well as evidence of malarial infection in wetland and non-wetland areas. High-resolution biogeochemical, biomolecular, metabolomic, and histological methods will be used to complement osteological data. These data will provide a long view of the interaction between human health, wetland ecology, and climate change during the stability of the Roman and early medieval warm periods, and the climate crisis of the 6th century. Findings will produce unique insights into the risks and benefits of subsisting in wetland environments, and will elucidate the role of climate in altering their balance.