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Medieval Matters: Why Bones Matter: Writing the Life Stories of People Whose Lives Were Never Witnessed by Texts with Robin Fleming

Medieval Matters is a series of public lectures co-sponsored by the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Office for Religious Life, the Sarum Seminar, and Stanford Continuing Studies. It explores the relevance of medieval history and culture to understanding the modern world.Historians read documents that were written in the past, and interpret them in order to come to grips with what happened, why it happened, and why what happened is important. But some historians, particularly those who work in a very early and poorly documented historical period like early medieval Britain, rely on material evidence to reconstruct the past. One very promising class of evidence is the evidence of human bones—bones excavated by archaeologists. By studying the broad demographic patterns of mortality and morbidity across burial communities, and by examining the stable isotopes trapped in bone and teeth, we can begin to reconstruct the life histories, diets, and movements of people in the past whose lives and deaths were never captured by texts. Robin Fleming Professor of History, Boston College Robin Fleming is a recipient of the 2013 MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” award. The award praises her for “changing the way historians view early medieval Britain and providing a framework for incorporating material culture into the writing of history.” Fleming joined the faculty of Boston College in 1989. She teaches courses on late Roman and early medieval history, the Vikings, ancient and medieval historical writing, and material culture. Her books include Kings and Lords in Conquest England; Domesday Book and the Law: Society and Legal Custom in Early Medieval England; and Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400–1050.



Thursday, May 15, 2014. 07:30PM


Cubberley Auditorium, School of Education


Continuing Studies, Office for Religious Life




Free and open to public