A long spring to prepare ourselves for the Summer, what a good time!

Dr. Diego Badillo-Sanchez

After having a difficult 2020-2021 full of lockdowns, restrictions, and fears, 2022 has been a more positive year. Thanks to the active work of the health workers and the positive response of the citizens towards mass vaccination, a more stable global situation has emerged in the presence of the Covid pandemic, the overall fear has vanished, and normal activities have resumed.

The Tobacco, Health and History team (THH) has not been excluded from being impacted by Covid-19, but even though some of our colleagues got it, fortunately for us, they have been able to recover without any severe repercussion, allowing us to still have them with us. Let’s take a moment to remember those who are been affected deeply and cheer a THANKS for being able to survive this pandemic!

Thanks to the global recovery, and the opportunity to start having in-person activities again, the THH team have been able to meet face-to-face with other researchers. We have presented and discussed some of our early results, and the goals for the project in the following years at national, international, and local events. So, let’s talk about our adventures taking one activity at a time.

At the very end of winter, just after Covid restrictions ceased in mid-March, the THH team organized and held the annual “THH project seminar”. The seminar, which combined in-person and virtual papers, was held at College Court of the University of Leicester, with more than 20 participants (in person, in the same room, can you believe it?) from different locations in the UK and Europe, along with 10-15 virtual attendees. There, in a full day split between presentations, tea breaks and an amazing hot lunch, all members could meet face to face, talk and discuss the early project results, advances, goals and future perspectives. The event ended with a fantastic dinner at the “Cosy Club” which is a fab restaurant placed in the former Veejay Knitwear factory in Leicester city centre.

As the covid restrictions ended for England, the THH team was not the only one taking advantage of the ability to meet in person. The THH team was invited to participate in the “Engineering the Past to Build a Resilient Future symposium”, where the team had a close contact with different professionals in a multidisciplinary discussion to address the questions about present/future biodiversity and climate crises, exploring topics such as computational modelling to engineer the past; conservation and preservation in the context of changing climate; and machine learning, AI, and Archaeology.

Saying goodbye to the winter, and returning to international participation, the THH team attended the Society of American Archaeology Annual Meeting (SAA 2022) in Chicago (USA). There, several discussions on archaeological sciences were followed over the course of the week, and we were particularly happy to attend the panel related to “Biomolecular Archaeology of Secondary Metabolites”, where the team was a special guest.

 Here there was the opportunity to learn about current approaches for the study of body intoxicants in archaeological remains from American scholars. The event, which was in person and mask-on, unfortunately had some Covid-19 cases, but fortunately, for us, our team was safe! 

After taking a good rest during Easter, the THH team packed their luggage to disseminate their results. This time the team attended the United Kingdom Archaeological Sciences conference (UKAS 2022) at Aberdeen (Scotland), which is one of the most prestigious communities in the archaeological sciences field today.

There, in front of more than 150 participants, the team presented their metabolomic approach to studying ancient dried botanical material from Kew Gardens, an approach we have developed as a new strategy to expand the knowledge of the past. The scientific and archaeological community accepted it with great enthusiasm.

When May came, the THH team decided that was time to have a short time-out to pause activities, evaluate the goals and give the opportunity to each participant of the team to reflect on the project. For that, the team went for two consecutive days to the “Pumping House” in Nottinghamshire. There, taking advantage of the surrounding nature and the sunny and fresh weather, the team touched on the deeper issues of the project, being critical and objective about the different outputs already achieved and those to come!

In the middle of the daily activities, national and international meetings, the THH team together with the “Body-Politics: Personhood, Sexuality and Death ERC project” took the time to organise and participate actively in a series of workshops entitled “Intersectional bodies: health and inequality in the past”. In three different sessions, the workshops aimed to explore animal-human interactions; Intoxicated Bodies; and Bodies of Inequality, through a series of lectures, round tables and visits to the different laboratories associated with the projects. The series of workshops concluded with the “Intersectional Bodies Symposium”, just in time to receive the summer heat. This final symposium, which was a two-day event held at College Court, saw the participation of scholars from different fields all of whose research examined intersectional bodies from the perspectives of bioarchaeology, history, the cultural heritage world, identity and more.

This half a year has been very productive. The THH team combined their time to disseminate their results and vision with diverse communities, all while continuing their daily research to solve the various project questions from both the molecular and the osteological perspective. Of course, we were also writing and have three publications which will hopefully be out soon, so you will be able to read and learn more about our work, tobacco and the health issues related to its consumption. So, don’t forget to continue following us to be the first to read the new data when it comes out! The THH team will be happy to have your feedback!

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