Health and Environment in the Ancient World

Research in this area investigates health and healing in the ancient world, with a focus on medicine, pharmacology and palaeopathology, food and diet, and botany and horticulture.  Dr Draycott has also undertaken research into the history and culture of Graeco-Roman Egypt and the Roman client kingdom of Mauretania. This research is currently organised through the following two projects:

The Gardens of Hygieia: the Role of the Hortus in Roman Domestic Medical Practice

The hortus (a garden or plot of land used to cultivate plants, herbs, fruit and vegetables) was normally the means by which a Roman family supplied itself with foodstuffs, but what other purposes could it serve, and what was their significance? This interdisciplinary research project examines the extent to which the hortus was used both to provide ingredients for medicinal remedies, and as a location for a range of therapeutic activities designed to ensure not only the maintenance of good health but also the improvement of poor health, thus maximising the family’s physical, mental, social and economic potential.

Bodies of Evidence: Re-defining Approaches to the Anatomical Votive

From Pharaonic Egypt to Roman Italy and from Classical Greece to the Byzantine world and beyond, the anatomical votive has performed a continuous, if only partially understood role in ritual and healing practice. Made from terracotta, stone, metal and wood, these recognisable parts of the internal and external body have attracted attention from scholars exploring past religion and health alike.  However, despite widespread academic and popular fascination with this type of material the category of ‘anatomical votive’ remains distinctly ill-defined and is yet to be integrated fully into the study of ritual or the material culture of the body. One reason for this is the disjointed nature of publication concerning the anatomical ex-voto.  No major study which reunites these disparate body parts into a coherent assessment of the phenomenon as whole, or which addresses the complexity of multiple meanings attributed to particular types and the significance of the ever-present power of the fragmented body within discourses of healing, medicine, religion and body identity, exists.  Bringing together scholars working on the anatomical offering as a distinctive form of artefact, in the context of both sanctuary and museum assemblages as well as from the perspective of body theory and reception studies, this conference and its companion volume of proceedings will provide the first comprehensive analysis of this class of material and its consequences for understanding some of the most fundamental engagements with the human body.


A project on the changing connotations of gardens from antiquity to the present is being developed in conjunction with the local farming community as well as the National Botanic Gardens and the Roman Gardens in Wales. This project will engage the local community through the development of garden space on the campus and educational material on the changing uses of garden plants.

The cluster will explore opportunities for collaborative research and impact with those members of the School of Archaeology, History and Antropology, in particular the embodied foodstuffs and consumption. This project has secured support from the University’s EU funded Rural Alliances project (a €10 million collaboration with ten public sector organisations across northwest Europe and Philipps-Marburg University, Germany). Impact will focus on exhibitions and talks aimed at local stakeholders, as well as collaboration with tourist businesses and rural development agencies on experimental archaeology (bread, beer and yeast) and Roman food stuffs (Roman dining practices).

Rome Fellow at the British School at Rome (2011-12)

2012 Approaches to Healing in Roman Egypt (British Archaeological Reports International S2416) (Oxford: Archaeopress)

This monograph examines the healing strategies utilised by the inhabitants of Egypt during the Roman period (from the late first century BC to the fourth century AD) in order to investigate how Egyptian, Greek and Roman customs and traditions interacted within the province. 

2014 in preparation, co-edited with E-J. Graham Bodies of Evidence: Re-defining Approaches to the Anatomical Votive

This volume examines anatomical ex votos, and the complex resonance these had for the people who produced, deposited or encountered them in both the distant and more recent past.

2014 in press, ‘Who is Performing What, and For Whom?  The Dedication, Construction and Maintenance of a Healing Shrine in Roman Egypt', in R. Matthew, E. McInnes, R. Pettitt, E. Gemi-Iordanou, and S. Gordon (edd.) Medicine, Healing, Performance: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Medicine and Material Culture (Oxford: Oxbow) 

This chapter examines a papyrus letter through which some of the social, economic and even political contexts of healing practice amongst the Greek communities of Egypt during the Roman period can be revealed.