University of Leeds

University of Bradford

Wakefield Council

You Are What You Ate

Bioarchaeology

Learn more about the archaeology of human bones and teeth and what they tell us about our health and lifestyle.

Bioarchaeology is the area of archaeology that deals with the remains of humans, plants and animals – all of which can tell us about diet in the past. Bioarchaeologists analyse plant remains and animal bones, identifying which plants and animals were eaten and reconstructing activities like domestication, crop processing, herd management and butchery. Archaeologists also examine cooking utensils, drinking vessels and domestic architecture to reconstruct daily life and diet.

Osteoarchaeology is the study of human and animal bones and teeth, and palaeopathology is the study of disease based on the evidence from skeletons. Human palaeopathology draws heavily on medical research, especially for the diagnosis of conditions, which is usually done in conjunction with clinical evidence. The You Are What You Ate project includes specialists in human remains, allowing members of the public to gain hands-on experience of human bones and understand the traces left by nutritional disease on the body.

Certain chronic diet-related diseases leave their mark on bones and teeth. The link between diet and dental disease is well known. Some nutritional diseases also damage the skeleton, though the harmful effects or lesions of these diseases are much less well known.

In this section, read more about dental disease, deficiency diseases, diseases of excess and malnourishment and undernourishment.

See our events page for details of talks and workshops on theme theme of bioarchaeology.