Call for Papers: Health, Environment and Urban Development in the Middle Ages

6-7 October 2021
Norwegian University of Science and technology, University Museum, Trondheim

The conference completes the Norwegian Research Council funded project “Medieval urban health: from private to public responsibility” (2017-2020), whose goal is to shed new light on how public health evolved from individual health practices to actions for public health; what factors caused this ground-breaking development? The overarching methodological principle has been to compare the natural and built urban environment in medieval Trondheim with the development of health, diet, and mobility. The basic information has been gathered from the large collection of well-preserved skeletons from medieval cemeteries in Trondheim. Biomolecular analyzes are applied to identify the character and volume of infectious diseases in the urban population during the period c. AD100-1600.

The aim of the conference is to share results and promote interdisciplinary debate amongst international colleagues who have worked across disciplines with research questions related to health, environment, and medieval urban development. We welcome papers from archaeology, history, ancient DNA, paleobotany, zoology, climate science, linguists, literary studies, and other relevant disciplines.

We welcome proposals for papers of 20 minutes in length (+ 10 minutes of discussion) engaged with the session themes.

Proposals should not exceed 200-300 words, and are to be sent to Elisabeth Forrestad Swensen, e-mail: by no later than September 15, and should contain the following information: Name, institutional affiliation (if any), Email.

Keynote speakers: Prof. Guy Geltner, Monash University, Melbourne and prof M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Centre for Geogenetics, University of Copenhagen

Organizing committee: Prof. Axel Christophersen (Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum), Prof. Hans K. Stenøien (Department of Natural History, NTNU University Museum), and senior research fellow Elisabeth Forrestad Swensen (Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum).


Day 1:

9-12: Urban landscape and environmental impact

The medieval urban landscape created its own environmental challenges but seems also to have affected the town’s surroundings in a negative way. What environmental changes did the urban population face in long-term perspective? How did it change living conditions, nutrition and diet, mobility, and migration?  How did the urban population respond to these challenges? And what measures did urban authorities implement to meet the environmental changes?

13-16: Old history, new insights

What new comprehension of medieval urban health has developed from cross-disciplinary research in the wake of the development of techniques such as paleogenetic/genomics, stable-isotope analysis and lipid analysis?

Day 2:

9-12: Health history – an interdisciplinary field of research

Medieval urban health and disease cannot be studied in full, with insight into the complex relations that exist between health and social conditions, without utilizing all available empirical data. Consequently, the question is: how can we create interdisciplinary research practices regarding health and disease issues in medieval urban environments? What are the possibilities and challenges? And how do we communicate methodological problems across research traditions and knowledge ideals?

13-16: Looking into the future

New methods of analysis which have been developed in recent decades, at the intersection of physics, biology, and genetics, have provided opportunities to investigate new areas within health and disease development. We can find the answer to old, and ask new, questions. Where does the road lead into the future, regarding methodological opportunities and analytical approaches?

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