Laura-Kate Girdwood (MA in Ancient Mediterranean Civilisations (Hons), MSc Human Osteoarchaeology)

Thesis title: A comparative analysis of the evolution of stable isotope dietary data and oral health pathologies through the historic period in two contrasting populations: Scotland and Ibiza, Spain.


My thesis examines the evolution of dental health and diet throughout the historic periods in Scotland and Ibiza, Spain.  I chose these constrasting populations as they both have excellent skeletal collections, were undergoing stable isotope testing and were previously poorly studied and understood.  These types of studies on archaeological remains are integral to the study of the past as they are highly informative pieces of evidence which can contribute to our understanding of the health of past populations and how this changed throughout time.  The analysis of stable isotopes can provide an indication of the diet consumed and thus inform us as to subsistence strategies, health status, and differences between locations and inter- and intra-population differences.  Likewise, an examination of oral pathologies can also provide an indication of diet and health status, food preparation techniques, differential access to food resources, oral hygiene as well as occupation and habitual activities involving the mouth.  Whereas stable isotope analysis primarily reconstructs the protein component of the diet, dental pathology provides an overview of the entirely of the diet and thus the two different techniques can ably complement one another in the reconstruction of these factors.  The evolution of diet and oral pathologies is particularly interesting as variation is either assumed or expected due to differences in technologies, mechanisms of cultural change as well as fluctuations in the availability of resources and environmental pressures.  These changes can impact on the diet and health of past populations and so do different historical events and processes which can potentially be identified and their effects on diet and dental health assessed.  Undertaking an examination of these factors with a comparative approach between two cultures is beneficial as it allows for the identification, analysis and explanation of similarities and differences across the cultures, taking into account their differing socio-cultural contexts and their historical processes.  This will provide greater depth and understanding of diet and oral pathologies in both cultures allowing the similarities and differences to be tracked and for positing explanations for them.


MA in Ancient Mediterranean Civilisations (Hons), MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology (with distinction)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Member of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Member of Edinburgh Unit for Forensic Anthropology


Research summary

Dental anthropology, dental disease, osteoarchaeology, forensic anthropology, non metric traits, infectious diseases, expression of sexual dimorphism, age determination, diet, gender, Scottish archaeology, community/outreach archaeology.

Pickard, C., Girdwood, L.K., Kranioti, E., Márquez-Grant, N., Richards, M.P. and Fuller, B.T., 2017. Isotopic evidence for dietary diversity at the mediaeval Islamic necropolis of Can Fonoll (10th to 13th centuries CE), Ibiza, Spain. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 13, pp.1-10.

Girdwood, L.K., Langstaff, H. and E. Kranioti, 2015.  'Settlement of Ibiza, Spain: From Rome to Islam, the Biological Evidence from the Dentition' in Ortega, A.M. and G.G. Echavarri (eds) Monograph of Meeting of VI Jornades D'Arqueologia de les Illes Balears, Consel insular de Formentera, pp. 323-330