Old bones and modern germs

Trondheim, Norway’s first religious and national capital, has a rich history that has been revealed over decades of archaeological excavations. One question archaeologists are working on right now has a lot of relevance in during a pandemic: Can insight into the health conditions of the past shed light on pandemics in our own time? Now, with the help of old bones, latrine wastes and dental plaque, researchers are learning about how diseases evolved in medieval populations, and what society did to stem them — and how that might help us in the future.

Our guests for this episode were Axel Christophersen, a professor of historical archaeology at the NTNU University Museum; Tom Gilbert, a professor at the NTNU University Museum and head of the Center for Evolutionarly Hologenomics based at the University of Copenhagen; and Elisabeth Forrestad Swensen, a PhD candidate at the NTNU University Museum.


You can read more about the MedHeal research project on the project’s home page.

Here are some of the academic articles on medieval Trondheim related to the podcast:


Zhou Z, Lundstrøm I, Tran-Dien A, Duchêne S, Alikhan NF, Sergeant MJ, Langridge G, Fotakis AK, Nair S, Stenøien HK, Hamre SS, Casjens S, Christophersen A, Quince C, Thomson NR, Weill FX, Ho SYW, Gilbert MTP, Achtman M. Pan-genome Analysis of Ancient and Modern Salmonella enterica Demonstrates Genomic Stability of the Invasive Para C Lineage for Millennia. Curr Biol. 2018 Aug 6;28(15):2420-2428.


Stian Suppersberger Hamre, Valérie Daux- Stable oxygen isotope evidence for mobility in medieval and post-medieval Trondheim, Norway,

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol. 8, 2016, pp 416-425,

 A transcript of the show is available here.

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