Digging into health and disease in post-medieval London with Paola Ponce

Savoy Hospital

In 2011, Archaeology South-East (UCL) excavated hundreds of post-medieval skeletons from the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy in the City of Westminster, London. Today, the Chapel is all that remains of the ‘Hospital of Henry late King of England of the Savoy’, a charitable foundation completed in 1515 to provide lodging for ‘pour and nedie’ men.

Who were the people buried in the chapel and what do their remains tell us about their health? In her upcoming talk in the CRESIDA seminar series on February 22nd, Dr Paola Ponce, a bio-archaeologist from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, explores the answer to this question.

The talk is open to the public and the abstract is below.

Health and disease in post-medieval London:

Examples from the population buried at the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy

Dr Paola Ponce, University of York

In 2011 Archaeology South-East (UCL) excavated 609 post-medieval skeletons from the Queen’s Savoy of the Chapel, City of Westminster, London. The burials dated to between 1552 and 1853 but the majority of the excavated skeletons appear to represent the later stages of the burial ground when this was used by the military as well as the civilian population.

The buried population was dominated by younger males and osteological analysis revealed a range of a diseases typical of post-medieval London and afflictions consistent with a military lifestyle. Traumatic conditions were the most prevalent pathological manifestations recorded followed by dental, infectious, metabolic diseases and neoplastic conditions as well as some evidence for post-mortem examination and surgical intervention.

In line with the results obtained for sailors buried at the Royal Hospital Greenwich, London, the lifestyle of seamen and marines made them particularly vulnerable to suffer from traumatic conditions. To summarise, the majority of pathologies evident accurately reflect the status of the population, with some consistent with the poorer elements of society and fewer associated with wealth and dietary excesses of a post-medieval urban city like London.

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