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Durham e-Theses
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Death Metal: Characterising the effects of environmental lead pollution on mobility and childhood health within the Roman Empire.

MOORE, JOANNA,FAYE (2019) Death Metal: Characterising the effects of environmental lead pollution on mobility and childhood health within the Roman Empire. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The use of lead was ubiquitous throughout the Roman Empire, including as material for water pipes, eating vessels and as a sweetener for wine. Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead and it is likely that the widespread use of this deadly metal amongst Roman populations led to a range of adverse health effects. Indeed, lead poisoning has even been implicated in the downfall of the Roman Empire. This research examines the direct effect of lead poisoning on the inhabitants of the Empire, and for the first time introduces a bioarchaeological perspective to how lead exposure affected health during the Roman period. The results provide strong evidence that Roman lead pollution contributed to the high prevalence of metabolic diseases during childhood and implicates elevated lead burdens in the high prevalence of infant remains in Roman skeletal assemblages.

This study has also shown the effectiveness of lead isotope analysis as a tool in archaeological migration studies. The successful establishment of baseline lead isotope ranges in previously unstudied regions of the Roman Empire has greatly enhanced our ability to identify the potential origins of isotopic outliers. Although this study has shown that anthropogenic lead isotope ratios are not country specific, the results have demonstrated that lead isotope ratios can differentiate between populations based on the orogenic age of the region in which an individual spent their childhood. This has improved our understanding of how anthropogenic lead isotope ratios in Roman individuals varies across a continent, and has demonstrated that lead isotope ratios are
capable of discriminating between geographical regions of origin when other isotope system are not.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"Lead isotopes" "Lead poisoning" "Roman" "Mobility" "Health"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Oct 2019 08:09

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