Science Notes

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Science Notes – Leprosy in medieval England

Analysis of medieval skeletons from two sites, one in Chichester and another in Raunds Furnells, has identified the presence of Mycobacterium leprae DNA – signs of leprosy in medieval England.

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Science Notes – Early medieval insights from birch bark tar

Birch bark tar (manufactured by the heating of bark in airtight conditions) has long been prized for its sticky, water resistant, and biocidal properties. Throughout human history it has seen a wide range of uses, including as a sealant (for example, in waterprooing vessels), an adhesive (for hafting weapons, repairing ceramics, or assembling composite objects like jewellery), and in perfume and medicine.

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Science Notes – 3D imaging and reimagining 19th-century interpretations

In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we will look at the way three-dimensional (3D) imaging can be used to study the accuracy of plaster casts created by 19th-century archaeologists to record and preserve ancient monuments. A recent study published in Antiquity compared casts taken of parts of the Parthenon in Athens in the early 1800s and the 1870s with the original sculptures in their current state, in order to determine the reliability of the casts and to help monitor the sculptures’ deterioration over time.

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Science Notes – Progress in potsherd recording

In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we look at new research that could change the way in which archaeological survey is carried out in the future, exploring an article published in the Journal of Archaeological Science that offers the first proof of concept for a method of automating the recording of material culture, such as potsherds, across large areas.

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Science Notes – Survey on the Isle of Arran

For this month’s Science Notes, we will be exploring a technology that is mentioned frequently in the pages of CA, and which, in a recent survey of the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, has allowed hundreds of previously unknown sites of archaeological interest to be discovered.

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Science Notes – Parasites and poo at Must Farm

In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we dive into the world of palaeoparasitology, and examine what the study of faecal matter can tell us about human health and behaviour in the past. While we may not like to acknowledge it, humans play host to a large number of parasites. Which parasites affect us and how they influence our health, however, can vary wildly based on our diet, living conditions, and other environmental factors.

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Science Notes – Debating Durrington Walls

In recent years, a flurry of archaeological work in the Stonehenge landscape has uncovered a wealth of spectacular new details about this area’s prehistoric use. Above all, these findings clearly show that our knowledge of the past is constantly evolving. When it comes to archaeological analysis, there are very few certainties, and re-examining earlier evidence in light of either new finds or the development of new technologies is essential to get nearer to the truth.

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Science Notes – Calculating historical population fluctuations in Ireland

Previously, large-scale changes in population were quite difficult, if not impossible, to discern from the archaeological record. But while there are still many biases and pitfalls, new statistical techniques are starting to provide innovative ways to determine movement and migration patterns. In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we explore some of these new techniques, and examine recent research that has utilised them to assess population fluctuations in Ireland.

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Science Notes – Picking out Paget’s disease using proteomics

In CA 338, we discussed proteomics – the study of proteins – and how it is quickly growing as a new way of analysing archaeological remains. That month’s ‘Science Notes’ explored how it had been applied to dental calculus, or plaque build-up, to assess an individual’s diet and health. Now research has used proteomics to help with the identification and diagnosis of ancient diseases, further proving its potential to revolutionise our understanding of health through history.

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