The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Understanding Disability, Societal Expectations and Disease Ideology in Romano-British Mortuary Contexts


Department of Archaeology, Durham University

Saturday Morning, 200DE Add to calendar

This poster demonstrates how utilising wider cultural evidence from a given societal context can allow us to elucidate the cultural expectations and disease ideologies that affected disabled individuals in the past and make sense of the social aspects of their burial treatment. Whilst research of the past two decades from within Classical Studies and Ancient History has shed light on cultural attitudes towards disability (cf. Garland 1995; Laes 2008; Rose 2003; Trentin 2009, 2011) as expressed in both textual and iconographic sources, there has been little archaeological research that has applied the cultural norms and attitudes derived from this evidence to the mortuary record in a comparative manner. In light of this, this poster details on-going research that examines the relationship between individuals with bioarchaeologically-recognisable impairments and their mortuary treatment in the Late Roman Period of Britain (C.200-410 AD). Whilst certain individuals with impairments will be shown to have been provided with deviant burial treatments, potentially signifying their liminal status within society, many people with the same or similar impairments will also be noted to have been provided with a fully normative burial rite. It will be demonstrated that Roman cultural expectations relating to age, gender and status that can be discerned from wider sources can offer us a means of understanding this variability, and that the relationship between impairment and disabling societal responses was determined by the impingement of disease and disability on these other aspects of identity as well as wider Iron Age and Roman superstitions.

My project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the United Kingdom.

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