Incorporating Histological Methods to Examine the Response to Famine in Mid-19th-Century Ireland

Lauren A Meckel, Hallie R. Buckley, Jonny Geber

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

Abstract

In 2005, a mass burial ground was discovered during a redevelopment project adjacent to a former union workhouse in Kilkenny City, Ireland. The burials, which date between 1847 and 1851, contained the remains of at least 970 individuals who died as a consequence of the Great Irish Famine. The skeletal assemblage is unique in the field of bioarchaeology as it can be contextualized to the most well-recorded historical famine in the world, an aspect that allows researchers to examine the effect of poverty, starvation, and disease on the skeleton from a biocultural perspective. For example, archival records from this time describe attempts by the British government to relieve the poor of starvation by distributing ‘Indian meal’ (maize, a C4 plant) imported from North America. Since bone is a dynamic tissue that changes in response to factors like diet, activity, and disease, this research seeks to observe the impact of maize on the rib bone microstructure of these skeletons. In a preliminary analysis, carbon and nitrogen isotope values, which would have been influenced by a C4 component in the diet, were compared to histomorphometric features. The results suggest that d13C may have had an influence on the rate of remodeling in the microstructure of the ribs. Future analysis will further explore the effect of relief food on the bone health of famine victims, the distribution of resources and conditions within the workhouse, and the overall impact of structural violence in 19th century Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists - Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, Cleveland, United States
Duration: 27 Mar 201930 Mar 2019
http://physanth.org/annual-meetings/88th-annual-meeting-2019/

Conference

Conference88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
CountryUnited States
CityCleveland
Period27/03/1930/03/19
Internet address

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