Starting to See What the Soil Says

Hello all!

Recently, the TUBA team has been investigating how best to analyse soil at Vindolanda. This is very important- I mean, it IS what makes up the site. And so, Helga and myself have been trialling ICP-MS and XRF. But before any of that, we donned our chef hats and got to cooking, though by cooking, we were heating up soil to remove the moisture and determine how much organic matter is lost after heating.
Doesn’t sound so tasty, I know. But look at the lovely array of brown, like looking at a student’s first attempt at a dinner party!   Continue reading “Starting to See What the Soil Says”

Research Trip- 8th Bone Diagenesis Meeting

This week, I had the utmost pleasure of going to the ‘8th Bone Diagenesis Meeting’ conference. Founded by Robert Hedges in Oxford in 1988, the Bone Diagenesis Meeting has been held every four years across Europe and Africa, with the eighth meeting back in (temporarily) sunny Oxford. Pop the kettle on and put your feet up, because today I’m going to share my experience there with you!

Magdalen College, Quidditch pitch and corridor of many a movie. If TUBA ever has to relocate, I know where my vote goes!

Continue reading “Research Trip- 8th Bone Diagenesis Meeting”

Six months down; Plenty more research to go!

Hello TUBA followers!

I’m Rhys, member and admin of TUBA, though I am often referred to as “the bone man” among TUBA members, readers, and other research groups. I have been a graduate tutor at Teesside University for six months. During this time, I have been teaching bone labs, writing articles, and researching and designing experiments for my PhD on the processes of diagenesis and preservation in bone. For more information on me, check out the ‘Meet the Team‘ page
For my first blog post, I’m going to share a little of these with you today. Keep tuned for more!

Continue reading “Six months down; Plenty more research to go!”

Vindolanda’s feature in The Chronicle

The impressive shoe collection at Vindolanda has been featured in an article by The Chronicle. Over 7,000 shoes so far have been excavated from Vindolanda, including indoor, outdoor, military, decorative, and child footwear. Despite this huge number, little is known about them and the residents of Vindolanda.

TUBA is currently investigating which animals were used to make the leather shoes, and whether they were sourced locally or imported. This will help to explain more of the history of Vindolanda and Roman Britain.

A very interesting read- follow this link or click the photo for more information!



Welcome to the Teesside University Bioarchaeology (TUBA) blog

Bioarchaeology is the study of human remains and associated artefacts in the archeological context. TUBA is a unique group in archaeology by having members across a range of disciplines, including chemistry, microbiology, anthropology, archaeology, and ecology, among several others.

TUBA is currently researching the chemical and biological processes of diagenesis and preservation at Vindolanda, the infamous Roman military fort and World Heritage site located along Hadrian’s Wall. This will improve the management of unique environments and artefacts.

We look forward to showing you our experiments, findings, and updating you on other research that the team will be doing. Thank you for your visit!


Vivianite on Wood

This image shows the adherence of vivianite on wood recovered at Vindolanda.

Untreated wood normally degrades whilst buried due to rot and bacterial attack. The conditions at Vindolanda preserve wood exceptionally well. Vindolanda is known particularly well for its preservation of wooden tablets with handwritten correspondence. These adherence of vivianite into the wooden tablets seem to have helped preserve them over millennia of burial. TUBA is researching how vivianite adheres to wood, and how wood degrades at Vindolanda.

Vindolanda Site

This image shows part of the excavations currently underway at Vindolanda.

Vindolanda is a Roman military fort and World Heritage site settlement located along Hadrian’s Wall, the furthest North that the Romans ventured. Vindolanda is a World Heritage site known for its excellent preservation of materials that degrade quickly at other sites. Vindolanda houses an impressive leather shoe collection, and wooden tablets containing some of the oldest handwritten letters in the UK. These are preserved so well because of the environmental conditions at Vindolanda. TUBA is investigating these conditions and why material is preserved so well, to then apply these processes to other forensic and archaeological investigations.

Vivianite on Teeth

This image shows the adherence of vivianite to teeth, from a maxilla recovered at Vindolanda.

Vindolanda is known for its exceptional preservation of easily degradable material. Part of this is due to the formation of vivianite preserving material through a currently unknown function. The robusticity and nature of bone provides TUBA with material that can be manipulated extensively during the investigations of vivianite adherence and preservation at Vindolanda.

SEM Image of Vivianite

This image shows the crystalline structure of vivianite, captured using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Vivianite (Fe3(PO4)2·8H2O) is a mineral that forms in anoxic environments, or rather, waterlogged soils with poor oxygen levels and sources of iron and phosphate. The conditions at Vindolanda promote vivianite formation. Vivianite is colourless until exposure to oxygen, when it quickly becomes a pale blue colour. TUBA is investigating why vivianite is so effective at preserving material excavated at Vindolanda.