Peopling the Past

Chelsea A.M. Gardner, Carolyn Laferrière, Melissa Funke


Join host Dr. Chelsea Gardner and co-hosts Dr. Carolyn Laferièrre and Dr. Melissa Funke for a journey through under-explored aspects of archaeology, history, and everyday life in the ancient Mediterranean. Every week we feature an expert whose cutting-edge research sheds light on the real people who lived in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and beyond. Follow us on Twitter @peoplingthepast with the #peoplingpodcast, on Instagram and Facebook @peoplingthepast, and on our website

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35 episodes

(Not so) Risky Business: the Potential Perils of Childbirth in ancient Rome with Anna Bonnell Freidin

In today's episode, Dr. Anna Bonnell Freidin joins Melissa and Chelsea to talk about risk, pregnancy, and childbirth in the ancient Roman empire. Listen in as we discuss the definitions of risk in various contexts, how women's lives were affected by risks associated with pregnancy, childbearing, and delivery, and how the concept of communities of care might link us to people who lived long ago. This episode discusses infant and maternal death, so might not be appropriate for our youngest listeners. 

Mar 21
Not a Puella, Not Yet a Femina: Roman Girlhood with Lauren Caldwell

Ah, youth! We are all familiar with that mysterious and formative period of life between childhood and adulthood, but how did the ancient Romans describe this time of transition? In this episode, social historian Dr. Lauren Caldwell joins Chelsea and Melissa to talk about aspects of Roman "girlhood" and the difficult transition to "womanhood". Listen in, as we dive into ancient Latin medical and legal texts to learn how the ancient Romans grappled with puberty and the various changes that took place in the female body that differentiated girls (puellae) from the women (feminae) they would become.

Mar 07
Do Not Afflict the Widow: the Women of Ancient Nubia with Jacke Phillips

We're celebrating Black History and African Heritage month with a very special episode on the women of ancient Nubia! Join Chelsea and Melissa as they welcome Dr. Jacke Phillips, an expert in Nubian history and archaeology, to the show. In this episode, we discuss women in ancient Nubia, from rulers and royals to the lives of everyday women. Listen in as Dr. Phillips introduces a variety of evidence, including graves, tattoos, statues, and historical sources. You'll also learn the origin of the name "Candace"! Don't miss this very special episode on a fascinating region of the ancient world. 

Feb 21
Beyond the Bare Bones: Women in the Osteological Record with Efthymia Nikita

What better way to understand the real lives of everyday folk in the ancient Mediterranean than to look at the bones of the people themselves? On this episode, Chelsea and Melissa welcome Dr. Efthymia Nikita, a bioarchaeologist who studies the  surviving skeletal remains of ancient humans. Dr. Nikita shares her research and explains how bones can provide crucial information for understanding how people in the past lived, not just how they died. Join us as Dr. Nikita explores the way in which skeletal remains of ancient women can shed light on their mobility, sickness, diet, societal roles, and more!

Feb 07
Portrait of a Lady: Discovering Seianti with Judith Swaddling

Countless faces of real people survive in ancient portraiture, but how often do we know their names, or anything about their lives? In this episode, Dr. Judith Swaddling joins Melissa and Chelsea to talk about Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa, an Etruscan woman who lived over 2000 years ago in Italy. Seianti is an incredible person to get to know, since we have a full-sized portrait of her lying atop her sarcophagus, as well as the physical remains of her skeleton. Listen in as Dr. Swaddling reveals the layers of Seianti's past and discusses the limits to how much we can actually know about any one person from the ancient Mediterranean world.

Jun 28, 2022
Nevertheless, She Persisted: Boudicca and Imperial Resistance with Caitlin Gillespie

What can we say about Boudicca, one of the most famous women from the ancient world? Who was she, and was she even real? Why is she still so important to us today?  Listen in as Dr. Caitlin Gillespie joins Chelsea and Melissa to discuss what we (think we) know about this powerful resistance fighter and how her actions against the imperial Roman army still resonate with modern women in the 21st century.

Jun 21, 2022
Sisters are Doing it for Themselves: Mesopotamian Free Women with Stephanie Budin

What does it mean to be a "free woman" in the ancient Mediterranean world? Listen in as our guest, Dr. Stephanie Budin, joins Chelsea and Melissa to discuss women who lived outside of the traditional confines of the patriarchy and who were not under the direct control of a man. Dr. Budin, a historian and expert in ancient religion and sexuality, tells us about "harimatu" in ancient Mesopotamia and refutes the idea that these free women were prostitutes. This episode has it all: sex, gender-bending legal documents, and the dismantling of patriarchal assumptions about women's freedom and the origins of prostitution.

Jun 14, 2022
Call the (Roman) Midwife: Ancient Delivery and Childbirth with Tara Mulder

In today's episode, our featured guest Dr. Tara Mulder tells us all about the oldest profession in the world: midwifery! Listen in on a discussion between Dr. Mulder and hosts Dr. Chelsea Gardner and Dr. Melissa Funke that covers the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of childbirth in ancient Rome, from the perspective of professional midwives. We look at a gravestone of a known midwife and talk about training and approaches to the birthing process. Dr. Mulder brings a unique perspective to the conversation, as she herself the daughter of a professional midwife! Don't miss it, this is an episode that definitely delivers!

Jun 07, 2022
So Long as There is Hope: Wonder Women in Classics and Comics with Natalie Swain

Welcome to the first ever LIVE episode of Peopling the Past! Join our featured expert, Dr. Natalie Swain, and hosts Drs. Chelsea Gardner and Melissa Funke, for the premiere of our season on Women in the Ancient Mediterranean. Dr. Swain is an expert on the reception of Classics in modern comics and during this episode we discuss how ancient women, both real and mythological, figure into comics of the 20th and 21st centuries.  You will hear about well-known favourites like Wonder Woman, but you'll also have a chance to learn about newer comics, like Lore Olympus, Nubia, and Three. Together, we chat about how some awesome new re-tellings of ancient stories by more diverse authors are changing the landscape of traditional comics.  A special thanks to our audience, the students at the University of Winnipeg, for listening in and taking part in the live Q&A you'll hear at the end of the episode! It's a truly WONDERful time!

May 31, 2022
Season Three Trailer!

Peopling the Past Podcast is BACK for a third season on a very exciting topic: WOMEN IN THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN! * Join your hosts Dr. Chelsea Gardner and Dr. Melissa Funke for an introduction to SEASON THREE of the Peopling the Past podcast! This season, listeners will hear about real women from all over the ancient Mediterranean world, from Britain to Nubia, Italy to Cyprus, Greece to Mesopotamia, and more! Let us take you on a journey into the lives of all kinds of women, from the most famous (yes, we've got Cleopatra and Boudicca!) to those whose names are lost forever to history. We've got something for everyone: inscriptions, medical texts, osteoarchaeology (bones); Macedonians, Etruscans, the Iceni; pleasure (sex), pain (childbirth), and comics! Follow us on our website,, on Twitter and Instagram @peoplingthepast and on our Facebook page Peopling the Past. Tag us with #peoplingpodcast. It's going to be a great summer, so make sure to subscribe now!

May 05, 2022
Breaking the Bond: Forced Marriage and Cursed Freedom in Ancient Rome with Katharine Huemoeller

What does it mean to be free? In our Season 2 finale episode, archaeologist and historian Dr. Katharine Huemoeller joins the podcast to tell us all about her research on the female, forced, and reproductive aspects of ancient Roman slavery and how manumission and marriage can become intertwined. Join us as we dive into the story of woman named Acte and a cursed grave monument from Rome whose inscriptions reveal some dark secrets about the reality of living as an enslaved - and freed - person in antiquity.

Aug 31, 2021
Seize the Clay: Pottery Workshops in Sagalassos with Elizabeth Murphy

You might call ceramics the "plastics" of the ancient world...ubiquitous, indestructible, and incredibly useful! But how do we identify the spaces where ancient potters once made these everyday objects? Dr. Elizabeth Murphy joins the podcast to tell us all about the discovery and excavation of ancient tableware workshops at the site of Sagalassos in modern Turkey. Listen in as artisanal techniques are brought to life and the everyday lives of ancient potters are revealed through archaeological exploration.

Aug 24, 2021
There's Something about Mary: Early Cult and Veneration of the Virgin with Sabrina Higgins

It's all about Mary this week on the podcast! We are joined by archaeologist and PtP webmaster Dr. Sabrina Higgins, who takes us through catacombs, churches, and monasteries in Egypt, Syria, and Rome to trace the emergence of the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Mediterranean. Dr. Higgins discusses how Mariologists uncover signs of early worship of the mother of Jesus Christ, and emphasizes the role of artistic depictions of the saint and other material culture in tracing the diffusion of Marian veneration.

Aug 17, 2021
Rolling in the Dough: Bread-Making and Roman Bakeries with Jared Benton

The sights, smells, and sounds of an ancient Roman bakery might surprise this episode, historian and archaeologist Dr. Jared Benton joins the show to tell us all about the economics of ancient Roman bread-baking, from the household level to industrial-scale production. Come break bread with us as we talk about capitalism, social classes, Ostia, Djemila, and...donkeys! 

Aug 10, 2021
Breaking the Mold: Quasi-Official Coinage in Roman Egypt with Irene Soto Marín

Money makes the ancient Mediterranean world go round...but what happens when there's not enough metal to make official coinage? In this episode, archaeologist Dr. Irene Soto Marín shares her research on quasi-official (not counterfeit!) coinage in Roman Egypt during the 4th century CE, a period of instability and uncertainty. Join us as we learn how the Roman army created a cheap and effective monetary system to meet the needs of the local populations and how they literally "broke the mold" in doing so!

Jul 20, 2021
Practical Magic: Ancient Roman Smells and Spells with Britta Ager

Today's episode is simply magical! Join us as we welcome Dr. Britta Ager - an expert in ancient Mediterranean magic, spells, and curses - to the show and hear about her experimental work re-creating some sweet and smelly spells based on surviving recipes from the Egyptian Greek Magical Papyri. Listen in to learn about evidence for how and why people practiced magic in antiquity, from getting the gods on your good side to taking care of your animals, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure!

Jul 13, 2021
Using Olive It: Sustainable Fuel Production in the Ancient Mediterranean with Erica Rowan

Waste not, want not! In this episode, learn all about ancient Mediterranean olive oil production and how real people producing this delicious food used the manufacturing byproducts to create a closed-loop, sustainable system. Dr. Erica Rowan, an expert on archaeobotanical (plant!) remains, joins us to explain how the ancient Romans in North Africa, Spain, and Italy used industrial olive oil waste as a fuel source to heat their homes, kilns, bakeries, and even to power the olive presses themselves!

Jul 06, 2021
In Living Colour: Painting and Pigments with Hilary Becker

Ever wonder how ancient artists created the vividly-coloured frescoes that adorned the houses of Pompeii and Herculaneum? Dr. Hilary Becker joins Chelsea and Melissa to tell us all about nature's palette and the raw materials that were used to create the reds, yellows, blues, whites, blacks, greens, and purples of the Roman world. Focusing on the archaeological remains of the only surviving pigment shop in ancient Rome, join us on a colourful journey from dangerous extraction to elusive transaction!

Jun 29, 2021
Going with the Flow: Water Systems in North Africa with Mark Locicero

Water, water, everywhere...but how much of it can we drink?  In this episode, Chelsea and Melissa chat with Dr. Mark Locicero about Roman drainage systems in the ancient North African town of Volubilis (modern Morocco) and the Italian port city of Ostia. Find out how ancient Mediterranean people controlled and accessed clean drinking water and how that differed based on status, class, and location. In this episode we explore issues that are still very relevant to our lives today, including global water shortages, waste, and inequality, through a discussion about how archaeologists interpret the "invisible footprint" of ancient water.

Jun 22, 2021
Portrait of a Palmyran Man: Ancient Syrian Identity with Blair Fowlkes Childs

What do our choices say about who we are? In this episode, Dr. Blair Fowlkes Childs joins Chelsea and Melissa to talk about clothing, status, dress, identity, preservation, commemoration, and cultural heritage! Focusing on art historical analyses of ancient funerary portraits from Palmyra (modern Syria), we explore memory and permanence, and dive into issues of protecting our collective past for the future.

Jun 15, 2021
Grave Matters: Resting Places for Regular People with Liana Brent

In this episode, Dr. Liana Brent joins Chelsea and Melissa to talk about the archaeological remains of burials in Roman Italy at the ancient cemetery of Vagnari. Find out how archaeologists and anthropologists discover information about the real lives of ancient people through their commemorative practices, funerary rituals, and graves.

Jun 08, 2021
If the (Roman) Shoe Fits: Elizabeth Greene and Footwear from Vindolanda

In the Season 2 premiere episode, Dr. Elizabeth Greene joins Chelsea and Melissa to talk about the archaeological remains of Roman shoes from the site of Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall in present-day England. Why do shoes survive here, and what can they tell us about the men, women, and children who lived at this military fort hundreds of years ago? Listen to find out!

Jun 01, 2021
Season Two Trailer!

Join your Season 1 host, Dr. Chelsea Gardner, as she welcomes new co-host Dr. Melissa Funke for an introduction to the second season of the Peopling the Past podcast! This season, we'll take listeners on a journey through under-explored aspects of archaeology, history, material culture and everyday life in the ancient Roman world, from Egypt to Italy, Syria to England, Morocco to Turkey, and more! Follow us on our website,, on Twitter @peoplingthepast with #peoplingpodcast, on our Instagram at peoplingthepast, and on our Facebook page Peopling the Past. 

May 18, 2021
Thrown Together: Potters, Painters, and Ceramic Production with Sanchita Balachandran

In this episode, Sanchita Balachandran joins us to speak about the sensory experience of ancient potters and painters, her experimental archaeology project at Johns Hopkins, and the underdrawings on Greek painted pottery.

Dec 01, 2020
Making Waves in the Aegean: Lana Radloff and the Milesian Seascape

In this episode, Dr. Lana Radloff speaks about seascapes, the ancient sensory experience of the Mediterranean, and the ancient city of Miletus.

Nov 24, 2020
Golden Years and Silver Hair: The Greek Art of Aging with Susan Matheson

In this episode, Susan Matheson joins us to speak about representations of old age and the elderly in Greek art.

Nov 17, 2020
Living in a Material World: Jennifer Stager and Technicolour Statues

In this episode, Dr. Jennifer Stager discusses her work on Greek art, polychromy, and materiality.

Nov 10, 2020
Extreme Home Makeover, Ancient Greece Edition: Bronze Age Houses with Rebecca Worsham

In this episode, Dr. Rebecca Worsham discusses her work on Bronze age houses, deliberate destruction, and home renovation.

Oct 27, 2020
No Bones About It: Climate Change in the Ancient World with Flint Dibble

In this episode, Dr. Flint Dibble joins us to discuss his work on zooarchaeology and climate change in the Iron Age.

Oct 20, 2020
The Sound of Music: Art and Ritual with Carolyn M. Laferrière

In this episode, Dr. Carolyn M. Laferrière discusses her work on Greek art, music, and religious ritual by taking a close look at the Vari Cave on Mount Hymettos.

Oct 13, 2020