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Health Sciences profile

Lauren Meckel

PositionPhD Candidate
DepartmentDepartment of Anatomy
Research summaryIncorporating histological methods to examine the response to famine in mid-19th century Ireland.
TeachingBiological Anthropology, Bone Biology, Forensic Anthropology, Human Variation, Human Identification Methods and Techniques, Human and Non-Human Bone Identification
MembershipsAmerican Association of Physical Anthropologists, American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Research

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 the Great Irish Famine on the rib bone microstructure of these skeletons.