Growing Up In Gloucester

Bioarchaeology

With artefacts, textual records, and oral narratives, archaeologists and anthropologists can illuminate the history of places, social relations, and culture.

Growing Up In Gloucester

Biological anthropologists can piece together a story of life for the inhabitants of an area, and witness the changes that occurred throughout time. Here, bones discovered in Gloucester from the Roman age through to Victorian times tell these peoples’ stories. Anthropologists can discover the way people lived, what they ate, the struggles they endured, the jobs they did, and finally how they died.

Year 43AD - Roman Invasion Of Britain

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Year 52AD - Roman Gloucester

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Year 410AD - End to Roman Rule in Britain

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Year 1066 - Battle Of Hastings

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Year 1154 - The Middle Ages

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Year 1250 - Medieval Gloucester

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Year 1348 - The Black Death

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Year 1760 - The Industrial Revolution

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Year 1880 - Victorian Gloucester

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Roman Period 43-410 AD

In Roman Britain towns were set up around the military settlements. Gloucester became an important roman settlement, called Glevum.

Julius and Poppea are two Romano-British children living in Glevum, or what we would now call Gloucester. They live in a beautiful villa, with mosaic floors, because Glevum is a colonia, a high status settlement for retired Roman soldiers.

Life in Roman Gloucester
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roman mandible

Roman // Mandible

This person was found in the mass grave and most likely died from the Antonine plague. Due to the remains becoming mingled in the grave only the lower jaw is present and it is therefore not possible to say whether they were male or female. 

This is a rare example of a cyst that has grown to such a large size! A cyst is a sac that may be filled with air, fluid or other material. A cyst can form in any part of the body, including bones, organs and soft tissues.

Roman medicine would not have known how to treat this cyst however they might have used dental forceps to remove the tooth and free the ‘tooth worm’. A lot of Roman dentistry was focused on the presence of ‘tooth worms’ that caused pain and discomfort to the teeth.

The Middle Ages 600 AD – 1485 AD

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Britain developed into kingdoms that competed for power.

Meet Alice and John, and their two children Matilda and James. They live in one of the newly built townhouses. Alice and John moved to Gloucester from a village. Gloucester is expanding to become a bigger centre for trade.

Life in Medieval Gloucester
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Medieval // Left Tibia

If you look at the x-ray you can see lines around the bottom of the bone. These lines are known as Harris lines and are the result of growth stopping and then restarting during childhood.

This person has suffered numerous circumstances that have caused growth to stop. The Harris lines formed when this individual was aged nine to twelve and this potentially could be the result of moving out to start an apprenticeship and eating less nutritious food.

A lot of the medieval adults from Gloucester have Harris lines forming around this age and so it seems that early adolescence was a difficult time for medieval children.

The Modern Age 1730 – now

Industrialisation caused society to change and become more urban. The aristocracy dominated the working classes until the working classes revolted.

Thomas and Sarah have seven children and all live in a tiny house in Gloucester. The father works in the docks and the mother in the local textile factory. Elizabeth Hiscox is the eldest daughter and she also works in the textile factory. When she is not at work she helps look after her younger siblings.

Life in Victorian Gloucester
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Victorian // Cranium

This young man has orbits that have small holes on the inside rather than smooth bone. The spongy tissue within the bones of his skull swelled and the smooth compact bone disappeared.

During childhood this mostly happens in the orbits and we call it cribra orbitalia. It is seen as a sign of chronic or frequent malnutrition, and aneamia. The orbits slowly heal when the individual grows but but if they still suffer malnutrition it becomes more widespread and is mostly visible on the skull. It is then called porotic hyperostosis.

He must have known periods of malnutrition during childhood but he survived and his orbits show signs of healing. Look carefully in his eye sockets to see the spongy bone.

DigiArt Project is funded by the European Commision under grant number 665066

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