The Material Body: An Interdisciplinary Study Using History and Archaeology

Our project tries to develop new ways of studying the body in the post-medieval past by facilitating conversations and collaborative research between archaeologists and historians.

Since 2016, we have drawn on the insights of the two disciplines of Archaeology and History, to explore an interdisciplinary approach to bodies 'in the 'long early modern' or post-medieval past'. Embodiment transcended the physical body. Therefore our approach seeks to explore the body as both a physical and material object, and one made through the lived experience of society and culture. Our hypothesis is that we can better understand the body and its role in the human past by bringing together historians of the body with archaeologists who work with the remains of those bodies.

In a series of workshops we have brought together scholars from the disciplines of Archaeology and History to work collaboratively with historical documents and osteoarchaeological material from the collections of the University of Sheffield. We have produced several reports on potential areas of interdisciplinary research and some of the resulting work will be presented at our major conference.


The conference for the project, ‘The Material Body, 1500-1900: A Conference of Archaeologists and Historians’, will take place 4-5 July 2018 at the University of Birmingham. Themes include the body as material culture, bodily display, bodily practices, health in the city and plastic bodies.

We are delighted that our keynote speakers are:

  • Jelena Bekvalac (Museum of London): Revealing past lives and “Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you”
  • Mary Fissell (Johns Hopkins) and Elizabeth Craig-Atkins (Sheffield): Marking Maternity
  • Madeleine Mant (Memorial): Slips, Trips, Falls, and Brawls: Fractured Bodies in Eighteenth-Century London
  • David Turner (Swansea): Disability and the Material Body in the Industrial Revolution: Cultural Historical and Bioarchaeological Perspectives

See the draft programme here:

Register here

Conference Information

The conference will be held in LR3 in the Arts Building. This is R16 on the map of the Edgbaston campus.

There are lifts in this building. Full access information for this building can be found here:

The University has a train station 10 minutes walk from the venue.

You can find some details of local hotels at this webpage, and by using regular hotel booking and accommodation websites. The postcode of the conference venue is B15 2TT.

Project investigators

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Funded by The British Academy 

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