Working your fingers to the bone. An interdisciplinary conference on identifying occupation from the skeleton

Working your fingers to the bone. An interdisciplinary conference on identifying occupation from the skeleton


6th - 8th of July, 2016. Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra.

The aim of this interdisciplinary conference is to bring together researchers interested in disease, injury and other effects of occupations (in the broadest sense) on the human skeleton to improve the interpretation of these changes in archaeological and forensic contexts. 

Why Occupational Health?

Identifying occupation, task division and activity-patterns from skeletal remains past populations and using this to assist forensic identification, has been an alluring prospect in bioarchaeology from its earliest inceptions. Some occupation identification can be made by pathognomonic changes, e.g. “phossy jaw” which was characteristic of those working with white phosphorous in the matchstick industry, however, the majority of skeletal changes cannot be ascribed to a single task or occupation, e.g. entheseal changes or cross-sectional geometry. Recent research has highlighted that the multifactorial aetiology of many skeletal changes previously used to identify activity-patterns cannot be applied simplistically.

Conference Content

This conference will build on recent advances in related fields to provide a direction for future research on using skeletal changes to identify occupations (and activity-patterns) based on what is currently known. Abstracts are invited on a diverse range of approaches including: palaeopathology, biomechanics, ethnography, modern medicine, forensic science, archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology


The deadline for abstracts is the 13th of March and for early registration, the 25th of April.


Charlotte Henderson, Ana Luisa Santos, Francisca Alves Cardoso, Sandra Assis and Alejandra Acosta.

Scientific committee

The organisers and:

Prof. Eugénia Cunha, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra.

António José Vilar Queirós, MD, Health and Safety Management Department, University of Coimbra Social Services.

Prof. Peter Kirby, Professor of Social History and Leverhulme Research Fellow, Glasgow Caledonian University.

Sébastien Villotte, CNRS Researcher, University of Bordeaux.

Cynthia Wilczak, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University.



Logos of supporters