Name: Joanna Moore

Project Title: “Environmental Lead Pollution in the Roman Empire: characterising its effects on juvenile exposure, health and geographic mobility

Cohort: 2014/15

Institution:  University of Durham




BSc Forensic and Medical Science – University of Bradford (2012)

MSc Human Osteology and Palaeopathology – University of Bradford (2013)

My principle research interests are focused within the field of bioarchaeology, especially investigating biochemical methods of detecting and understanding disease in human remains by coupling proteomic analysis with isotopic analysis to build comprehensive data sets that improve our understanding of disease aetiology, how disease patterns alter both temporally and spatially and how this relates to the geographical, environmental and nutritional status of the populations in question.


Project description

The extensive exploitation of lead during the Roman period increased its accessibility throughout the Empire. Whether exposure to lead was deliberate (e.g. sapa) or inadvertent (e.g. contaminated water), individuals could accumulate hazardous concentrations of this insidious metal within their bodies from a plethora of sources. Today it is accepted that there is no safe level of lead burden within the body. Adverse health effects have been recorded with blood lead levels as low as 5μg/dL, especially in children, who are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults (Needleman 2003). Childhood lead concentrations from Roman tooth enamel has reveal lead burdens up to three times higher than what is today considered ‘severely toxic’ (Montgomery et al. 2010). The demographic profiles of Romano-British skeletal populations attest to the fragility of childhood health during this period, especially within the first year of life (Carroll 2014). It is therefore surprising that so little research exists on childhood lead burdens and their effects on Roman sub-adult health and mortality. This research will explore whether the zealous use of lead in the Roman Empire contributed to the preponderant failure to thrive evident in Roman sub-adult populations, and if lead exposure can be used to determine geographic origins in migration studies. Indicators of stress and disease in sub-adult skeletal material from sites across the Roman Empire (Spain, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Lebanon and Libya) will be assessed in conjunction with tooth enamel lead concentrations and lead isotope ratios. This research offers new insights into the impact of anthropogenic lead exploitation on child health within the Roman Empire and how this may have differed according to geographic and socio-cultural variations.


Publications/Conference talks/Posters

Moore, J.F. and Buckberry, J. (In Prep) The Use of Corsetry in Association with Pott’s Disease: a probable case from 19th century Wolverhampton, England. (Intended for the International Journal of Paleopathology)

Moore, J.F. and Koon, H.E.C. (In Prep) Basilar portion porosity: a pathological lesion associated with infantile scurvy? (Intended for the International Journal of Paleopathology)


Get in Touch

Office: Room 331, Archaeology Department, Dawson Building