Bone Books

By mike henderson on 19 Sep 2012

Hot off the Press….this month sees the publication of two brand new MOLA monographs invovling the work of the osteology team. Excavations at New Bunhill Fields, Southwark in 2008 uncovered evidence of a heavily used private burial ground. Documentary sources suggest that from c 1821–53 up to 33,000 burials may have taken place in the commercial Nonconformist burial ground. Excavation of 827 wooden coffin burials allowed comparisons of the use of the burial ground, coffin furniture and burial finds with other contemporary cemeteries. Of particular interest were the good level of preservation of floral remains in a child’s coffin, ceramic […]

Digitised Diseases

By mike henderson on 24 Jul 2012

  Since the beginning of 2012 the Osteology Department at MOLA has been involved in the Digitised Diseases project in collaboration with the University of Bradford the Royal College of Surgeons and funded by JISC. The ultimate aim of the project is to produce a web resource featuring high resolution 3D images of human bones with evidence of disease. Intended as a teaching tool, the website will allow detailed inspection of pathological lesions. Users will be able to move each image around in order to view it from every angle. They will also be able to zoom in to a high […]

Into the Groove

By mike henderson on 28 May 2012

This month  PhD student Rebecca Watts from the university of Reading talks about her recent research at the lab using skeletons from our archaeological collections. People are much easier to deal with when they are dead. This is a thought which has occurred to me many times during my time at the Museum of London – usually as I make my way home on the Circle Line during rush hour! But fear not, I do not harbour any homicidal impulses, I’ve simply been having a wonderful time looking at the remains of around 1,000 ancient Londoners at the Centre for […]

The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone

By mike henderson on 10 Feb 2012

I recently spent the day with Museum of London Archaeology photographer Andy Chopping. On arriving at the photography studio I was greeted by a large white backdrop screen and an array of camera and lighting equipment adjusted to my height. I had brought with me one of the well preserved human skeletons from our archaeological collections and began to set out the bones onto a large, six foot long light box. I laid out the skeleton in standard anatomical position as I would during full osteological analysis: the body extended on the back with the feet together and palms facing […]

Medical histories to ancient diseases

By mike henderson on 8 Feb 2012

This month Katie van Schaik talks about some of the things she encountered in the two weeks spent with us… The ‘punched-out lesions’ were unmistakable, and their form matched what I’d seen only on X-rays:  multiple myeloma, leading to the consumption of bone in the skull, both humeri, and in the distal femora.  Yet this man whose skeleton showed evidence of this disease had lived long before X-ray machines, long before a diagnosis of ‘multiple myeloma’ could have been made to explain the pain and fatigue he likely felt. The opportunity to see the remains of a human afflicted with multiple […]

Victorian Bones and Diseases

By mike henderson on 12 Apr 2011

Bring the whole family to Museum of London Docklands on Friday 15th April 2011 to learn about Victorian death and disease and meet those involved in the analysis of the burial grounds and skeletal populations from this era. The Victorian period was a time of great change.  In London, the expanding city saw massive population growth and the development of new industries that were to alter the shape of the city forever. With this change came an increased pressure on resources, leading to poor sanitation, overcrowded living conditions, increased pollution, poor diet and working conditions. This was to have a significant […]

Burnt Bones (The process and method of excavating cremation vessels)

By mike henderson on 1 Feb 2011

S. Matthews, BA, MSc This month Sarah Matthews talks about the process of excavating human remains from cremation vessels. Click on the images to see further details of the excavation. Archaeological investigations in 2010 by the Museum of London Archaeology revealed a number of Roman cremation vessels from a site in Surrey. While many of the vessels had been badly damaged by ploughing, 10 remained intact enough for further study. The purpose of excavating cremation vessels is to ascertain how efficient the cremation process was, determine the distribution of bone in the vessel, gather knowledge about the pyre, and information […]

Casualty 1800’s

By mike henderson on 4 Nov 2010

This month human osteologist Don Walker talks about the analysis of nineteenth century trauma victims from the Royal London Hospital. The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, East London is a venerable institution with a rich history of serving the local community, and was featured in a series of historical medical dramas produced by the BBC (‘Casualty 1906’ and ‘Casualty 1907’). The hospital was founded in 1740, and opened on its current site in 1757. One of the functions of the hospital was as an accident and emergency department accepting ‘special cases necessary to the preservation of life’. Emergency treatment would […]

The City Bunhill burial ground

By mike henderson on 28 Oct 2010

This month osteologist Brian Connell talks about the human skeletons excavated at the City Bunhill burial ground, Golden Lane, London. Archaeological excavations by MOLAS in 2006 uncovered 239 human skeletons from the City Bunhill burial ground. This nonconformist burial ground was in use from 1833 to 1853 and was very intensively used with over 18,000 burials taking place over a relatively short period of just 20 years. This was located in a poor area, with a high Irish immigrant population, many of whom would have been buried within this ground. The skeletons provided a fascinating insight into the mortality and […]

Blow to the head (sharp force trauma)

By mike henderson on 9 Sep 2010

The medieval period saw much violence, with warfare, crime and civil unrest rife throughout (Powers 2005). Occasionally, evidence of such fighting is revealed in the bones of past populations, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who lived and died at this time. The archaeological excavation of a possible 13th century medieval hospital burial ground at St Peter’s Wharf, Maidstone, Kent by MOLA between 2008-2009 revealed one individual who had suffered severe injuries to the skull. These were most likely the result of blows to the head from a bladed weapon (sharp force trauma). An adult male had a […]