Dr. Kristina Killgrove, University of Western Florida
Dr. Killgrove will present a lecture on the health and diet of Imperial Romans. Urban Rome during the Imperial period is often considered a place with high disease load and mortality, particularly affecting the lower class inhabitants of the city. Most of this information, however, is drawn from historical records, which are notoriously biased sources as they were written by educated, elite men. New approaches to understanding the diversity of past populations have arisen recently in anthropology, whose models of population interaction, nuanced theories of culture, and biochemical testing combine to generate intriguing data on life histories. Placed within the complex cultural context of the Roman Empire, then, the skeletal remains of people buried in simple graves in the Roman suburbs have begun to reveal the secrets of lower class lives in a way that even tombstones cannot match. In this talk, Dr. Killgrove will discuss the skeletal and dental pathology data and the biochemical dietary data that she collected from three Imperial period cemeteries in Rome, which call into question the blanket assumption that health in Rome was poor. Information from skeletons speaks to the importance of investigating the differences in health outcomes in this complex preindustrial urban center, as heterogeneity of the population may be related to disease ecology, diet, or genetic variation.
Dr. Kristina Killgrove CV
Kristina Killgrove is an assistant professor of Bio-anthropology at the University of West Florida. She previously taught a variety of anthropology courses at Vanderbilt, UNC Chapel Hill, SUNY Cortland, and Durham Technical Community College. Her most recent research involves biochemical analysis of skeletal remains from Imperial Rome in order to answer questions about the health, diet, and living conditions of the Romans who are not known from historical records, namely the lower classes, slaves, immigrants, women, and children. Dr. Killgrove shares her interest in the human skeleton and the ancient Romans on her blog, Powered by Osteons.
Dr. Killgrove is the Principal Investigator of The Roman DNA Project . In collaboration with John Dudgeon of Idaho State University, Dr. Killgrove is undertaking the first DNA analysis of people from the city of Rome. The main goals of this project are: 1) to use mitochondrial DNA analysis to more fully understand the demographics of the population of Imperial Rome; 2) to investigate the genetic diversity of the population of Rome from the earlier Republican period; and 3) to use mitochondrial DNA analysis to learn more about female mobility in the Empire. Future phases of this project will involve: combining DNA, isotope, and palaeopathological analyses to answer questions about disease ecology in the Italian peninsula, particularly with respect to the frequency of malaria and the presence of genetic anemias (thalassemia, sickle cell, and G6PD or favism); and undertaking a full genomic analysis of one or more people from Rome. In essence, the results of this project will provide a glimpse into the physical and social ramifications of immigration in the Roman Empire. This is a new approach to understanding the lives of the plebeians and slaves who are rarely mentioned in the historical records of the Roman Empire.