Show me your teeth...

Research in a nutshell: PhD student Clara Veiga studies historic diets and environments through pollen analysis of mineralised dental plaque

Clara, what is your research about? For my PhD research, I'm studying the teeth of medieval skeletal remains from Galician cemeteries. I’m interested in oral health and diet in medieval times because what people ate can tell you a lot of things about the environment they lived in and their way of life. Teeth are an interesting part of the body to study as they are the only skeletal part that always in touch with the outside world as we use our mouths to eat, breathe etc. At the same time, teeth are the hardest part of the body, that can survive adverse conditions. This is particularly important in places such as Galicia where we have very acidic soils that are bad for preserving skeletal remains. My PhD research uses mineralized dental plaque from historical remains as an archive for pollen and other micro remains such as fungal spores to complement other historical information.

What brought you to the University of Aberdeen? I am on a CRETUS-funded scholarship to visit Dr. Tim Mighall in Geography and Environment at the University of Aberdeen. The scholarship allows me to work with Tim who is a well-known expert in pollen and non-pollen palynomorphs and this is an amazing opportunity for me to complement my research profile. For me, archaeology/osteoarchaeology and environments are closely related, and I'm interested in studying the links between humans and their environments in past societies. My stay at the University of Aberdeen will help me to do that using pollen analysis of hardened dental plaque material from medieval teeth!

What is your background? I did my undergrad in Archaeology in the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a Masters's Degree at Granada University in Physical and Forensic Anthropology. My masters' thesis research was about health state in prehistoric childhood using a specific dental pathology as a proxy (enamel hypoplasia - informs us about metabolic stress episodes during infancy). Currently, I'm doing my PhD research at the University of Santiago de Compostela in the EcoPast Research group.

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