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The University of Southampton

Festival of Archaeology: What did it mean to be disabled in the past?

Published: 28 July 2021
Ancient bone
Scan image of an ancient bone

Archaeology is regarded as the study of human history and can often provide clues to how societies in the past existed – but research from the University of Southampton is looking beyond this, to understand the people and how they were viewed in their society.

Dr Sonia Zakrzewski is an Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton and one of the many researchers taking part in the Festival of Archaeology 2021 . She has been developing models of disability and ability to understand how people in the past viewed health and disease.

Sonia says: “Really this started because my youngest child has a congenital heart disorder and I was told she was disabled.

“But when we’re thinking about a person in the past, what does disability mean?”

Using palaeopathology and bioarchaeology, she is looking into how people in history, who we would now identify as disabled, were regarded at the time they lived.

Watch the video below to find out more about her research:

Our students have also been taking part in the Festival of Archaeology 2021 and we joined some of them conducting fieldwork on Avenue campus and across Southampton:

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