Sharon DeWitte

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

South Carolina, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9229

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

DeWitte, Dr. Sharon Nell, U. of South Carolina, Columbia, SC - To aid research on 'Diet and Health in the Context of Medieval Mortality Crises'

SHARON DeWITTE, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, was awarded a grant in April 2016 to aid research on ‘Diet and Health in the Context of Medieval Mortality Crises.’ One of the most important mortality crises in history was the Black Death, an outbreak of plague that killed tens of millions of people in Europe alone (c. 1346-1352 CE). Medieval European populations also experienced numerous devastating famines associated with dramatic climatic shifts. This project uses paleodemographic, paleopathological, and isotopic data from human skeletal remains from medieval London to examine the interactions among diet, sex, socioeconomic status, health, and mortality in the context of the medieval crises of famine and plague. This study will improve our understanding of the social, economic, and biological context of crises events. By revealing who might be most vulnerable during crises and which factors most significantly affect negative health outcomes or risk of mortality, this project can help motivate action in advance of crises to ameliorate their potential devastating effects. The findings of this project thus far reveal important associations between medieval diet (as revealed by carbon and nitrogen isotope values) and risks of mortality, and the potential influence of childhood stressors on susceptibility to famine mortality. Further isotopic analyses, which will reveal the intersection of diet, status, sex, and health in medieval London, are currently underway.