June 25th, Dr Anita Radini presented a fascinating talk on her PhD work involving 46 Anglo-Saxon skeletons that were recovered from the “villa” site and buried sometime between the 7-9th century. Anita’s work focuses on dental calculus: bacteria from saliva is mineralised in the plaque and can remain stable in the ground. Given proven techniques to elimate post-burial contamination, the integrity of the archaeology can be preserved in these ancient teeth. Analysis of the calculus enables a closer study of individuals: for example, sex, diet, local environmental conditons and disease environments.
Phytoliths of leeks, starch granules from legumes, oat, barley and wheat grains and dust from breads making are among the evidence detected. The women particularly showed evidence of charred grain – is this to do with cooking? The women also had a concentration of wool in their teeth. Smoke and soot was also found amongst the population. Moth scale and owl feather barbules were detected mainly in the male population? Is this to do with working on roofing? An open question.
The population also showed some sign of stress in their daily lives, with skeletons showing the presence of heavy labour and teeth containing many carries. What is interesting about this population is that when compared to burials in some Leic estershire Anglo-Saxon burials, the Southwell group appear to be more culturaly distinct from later medieval ones.
We eagerly anticipate further research into this population.