Seminar Series

| University of South Carolina

| 15/11/2021 h.17.00

The social and demographic context and consequences of medieval plague in London

Zoom link:


In the 14th-century, Afro-Eurasia was struck by a devastating pandemic of bubonic plague, now often called the Black Death, that killed an estimated 30-60% of some affected populations. Dr. DeWitte will discuss her bioarchaeological research, focusing on the skeletal remains of individuals who died before, during, and after the Black Death in London, England. The Black Death in England struck a population that had suffered through decades of recurrent severe famines and increasing social inequality. Dr. DeWitte’s work to date has examined demographic and health trends before and after the 14th-century Black Death in London and has revealed evidence of declines in life expectancies and, by inference, health for people before the Black Death, but improvements in health afterwards. Dr. DeWitte will highlight future directions in medieval plague bioarchaeology, including analysis of variation in diet and the health of migrants in the context of famine and plague.


Dr. Sharon DeWitte (PhD. 2006, Pennsylvania State University) is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Carolina. She is a biological anthropologist who specializes in paleodemography and paleoepidemiology - the reconstruction of population-level patterns of demography (mortality, fertility, and migration) and health using human skeletal remains ethically excavated and curated from archaeological sites. She is particularly interested in infectious diseases and famine conditions in the past, and focuses on determining how factors such as sex, gender, social status, health, developmental stress, nutritional status, and geographic origin affected risks of mortality during such crises. For over 15 years, her research has primarily focused on trends in health and demography before, during, and after the 14th-century outbreak of bubonic plague, the “Black Death”, in England. She is also generally interested in expanding the tools available to bioarchaeologists to examine health in the past in ways that put them in dialogue with scholars studying living people. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and the School for Advanced Research.