This weekend, we had the utmost pleasure to attend TRACamp (Theoretical Roman Archaeology Camp) at the glorious Vindolanda. And it really was glorious – clear, sunny skies all weekend despite the miserable forecast for the whole of the UK all weekend!
TRACamp, tag-lined ‘putting theory into practice’, is an experimental archaeology workshop dedicated to our good old friends, the Romans. This was an excellent opportunity to really see what some aspects of Roman life was like. It’s all well and good writing about some of the food they ate, but how about actually making and, better yet, eating it!?
August was conference month for team TUBA. While Rhys gallivanted around Belfast at the European Meeting on Forensic Archaeology, Gillian, Caroline and I travelled over to Copenhagen for the Ancient Protein Workshop. The event has been held every twenty years so far, and it was a great opportunity to be able to attend as the field has seen some massive development in the last few years.
Clear skies outside the conference venue in Copenhagen.
This week, I had the pleasure of attending the 7th European Meeting on Forensic Archaeology (EMFA), in Belfast (where craic means something very different, you scoundrels!). So, relax inside away from the sudden cold weather, ready for me to share my experience with you!
This conference covered such a wide variety of content. Radiocarbon dating, geophysics, volatile compounds (the smelly stuff), trafficking, rituals, 3D analysis, WWI and WWII, grave identification, drones, and even sea burials. Better yet, all the content as made easy to understand regardless of your background – fantastic job to all the presenters! We also had demonstrations of ground penetrating radar, the human bone lab, and the GIS lab (a layered site mapping system). I love when conferences sprinkle extra bits of these hands-on demonstrations and workshops!
Congratulations to all the students graduating this day, this week, this month and this year (cue the claps from Friends)! There is a whole group of students who worked hard on their projects with TUBA this year, and we couldn’t be more proud!
Graduation is a great time of year, where both the students and staff are so happy and proud of all the hard work and accomplishments. The campus gets a real buzz – and not a pair of jogger bottoms in sight!
But what did the TUBA graduates do to get here? What was their work with TUBA on? Who are the people behind the graduation regalia? Well, settle down for a quick synopsis and a mini gallery of their smiley faces:
We had Ollie Pepper looking at structural degradation of leather using Scanning Electron Microscopy, Kirsty looking at organic changes in buried woods using FTIR, Talia looking at organic changes in buried bone, Kealey looking at elemental changes in buried bone with the influence of preparation methods, and Jade looking at how we can present all this science nicely at Vindolanda.
Once again, congratulations to you all! We at TUBA wish each and every one of you the best in your future endeavours.
Congratulations to Rhys for winning the Sheppard Frere Prize, a prestigious award for research in Roman archaeology!
As you may remember, we recently had several posters presented at the RAC/TRAC conference in Edinburgh. Thanks to the hard work and hours put in by everyone on the TUBA team, we got some great feedback for each poster. Rhys was even awarded the prize for the best and most innovative student poster for his work titled: “Bullseye: Analysis of ox skulls used for target practice at Roman Vindolanda”.
We’d like to give a very warm welcome to our newest team member Aboli Sanjay Vavle!
Aboli is an international student from India. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology in India. During her course, she was a part of a seminar on DNA Fingerprinting and studied modules like Toxicology and Biotechnology Techniques in Forensic Science which influenced her a lot to choose Forensic Science as her subject for Masters degree. For her Master’s final semester project she worked on Secondary transfer and persistence of fibres, which is now submitted to Science and Justice and will be published soon – watch this space. She completed her Masters in Forensic Science from Northumbria University, Newcastle. Following completion of her degree her passion for research in fibres remained and thus, enrolled onto a PhD program to continue this area of research. She is currently a full time PhD student at Teesside University. With good background knowledge in fibres on surfaces, she will now be investigating fibres in buried environment, mainly focusing on degradation of the dyes and how this study can be useful in forensic and archaeological context. Besides science, she is very passionate about singing, reading, travelling, new gadgets and photography. She is a foodie and loves trying out new and different cuisines.
On top of the need for speed, two members of this research group found themselves in need of a course in spectroscopy this month. Luckily, ThermoFisher Scientific came to our aid, and so new PhD student Aboli and I (hi, this is Helga!) were able to take a trip up to Paisley, Scotland, to be showered with spectroscopic knowledge this week.
Aboli and I took a seat at the back of the room closest to the morning pastries, with direct access to the tea station. Luckily, we both remembered to bring our glasses!
It has been a great couple of months for Bioarchaeology research group, we have seen a wide range activities, we presented posters at RAC/TRAC, including winning the student prize – a great showcase for our work with Vindolanda – many congratulations to Rhys Williams, we have welcomed a new started Aboli Valve – whom will be starting work on archaeological fibres, we presented at the annual School research day, successfully completed 10 undergraduate projects, again including one which was awarded the school poster prize, so it is time for a rest!! Not at all, the planning of the instrumentation for the National Horizons Centre is continuing and there will be some exciting news on this in the coming months ahead, if you do want to work with us in the field of proteomics, metabolomics, bio-imaging, chemical characterisation using Raman, FTIR and many more, please do get in touch.
One of my conference highlights this year as group leader, is my attendance at ASMS in San Diego. What a fantastic conference, great location and I just love the American hospitality.
This week, TUBA attended the Roman Archaeology and Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (RAC/TRAC), dubbed the “premier international event devoted to Roman archaeology”. Some may wonder, what have the Romans ever done for us? Well, the conference featured no conspirators in a darkened room, no masked activists, although there was a Matthias (and probably a Reg, Stan and Francis too), and certainly an ominous mist coating the city. Despite the absence of Monty Python sketches, the RAC/TRAC did enlighten the audience on many aspects of Roman life, many of which still influence life today. And here, we’re going to share with you just a snapshot of our time there!
This year, RAC/TRAC was held at Edinburgh, a truly fascinating city with a wealth of knowledge and hidden treasures. There are also some questionable “treasures”, that is, if you consider a pocketbook made out of the tanned skin from the buttocks of the late William Burke as a treasure. If that, and the other pathological displays housed in the Surgeon’s Hall Museum sound a bit too morbid for you, then just round the corner is the marvellous and deceptively massive National Museums Scotland.
This week, the TUBA team visited Vindolanda to carry out some analysis ready for the RAC/TRAC conference next month. After a drive through the roads waving over the hills, past the remnants of snow refusing to melt away, we arrived with instruments in hand ready to power through bundles of fabulous artefacts. We had attempted the voyage two weeks ago but Vindolanda was snowed in for EIGHT DAYS!
Now, we can’t give away too many details, or we’ll spoil the surprises for our conference post. But how about this for a sneak peek? First, Rhys was using the 3D scanner to model skulls and arrows. Thanks to him, the room had to be plunged into darkness all day. Fortunately the sun wasn’t shining, or that would have been a shame to miss!
Next, we have Helga using the X-ray Fluorescence analyser on a wealth of artefacts rich in vivianite. Her ability to concentrate and precisely balance the scanner all day was more than impressive!
And finally, TUBA members Caroline and Gillian enjoyed a great discussion with visitor Dr Elizabeth Greene over posters for the conference, Vindolanda discoveries, and leather preservation.
We hope you’re satisfied with that sneak peek. Look out for our conference-special post coming next month!
P.S. what Sunday blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning food? If you’re visiting Vindolanda, definitely visit the café, it’s delightful!