Portrait of Dr Patty Baker FSA

Dr Patty Baker FSA

Head of Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies
Senior Lecturer in Classical & Archaeological Studies
Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Representative


Dr Patty Baker grew up in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and came to the UK to study the archaeology and history of the Roman provinces and ancient medicine. She received her PhD in Classics at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and wrote her dissertation on Medical Care for the Roman Army on the Rhine, Danube and British Frontiers from the First through Third Centuries AD. 

Patty holds two MA degrees: one in Classics from Florida State University and the other in Roman Frontier Studies from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Her BA was in Anthropology with a minor in History with a strong liberal arts background from Millersville University, Pennsylvania. 

Research interests

Patty's research interests centre on various aspects of Greco-Roman perceptions of health and medicine. She has written on Roman medical material culture, in particular the life course, materiality, colour, and depositional practices of medical tools. Her work on healing structures and spaces is informed by phenomenology. She has also worked on ancient paediatrics, images and perceptions of Greek and Roman physicians, and perceptions of disability in the past. 

Currently, she is researching and writing on Roman gardens as healthy spaces. This work explores the sensory experiences (smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch) the Romans would have had in their gardens and how these experiences were understood to effect the body and mind. The study incorporates Stoic and Epicurean understandings of sensory function in comparison to the remains of Roman gardens in the Bay of Naples from roughly 150 BC to AD 100. Patty is also the founder and series editor for Medicine and the Body in Antiquity, a book series with Routledge Press.  

Patty is a member of the Artefacts and Society research cluster.


Patty teaches from an interdisciplinary perspective and covers the full-range of subjects offered in the Department of Classical and Archaeological Studies. For example, the topics of her modules include archaeological theory, Greek and Roman History and Archaeology, and Greco-Roman literature. Her research and current themes in classics and archaeology inform how she teaches. 


Patty welcomes enquiries from students interested in doctoral study on topics related to her research interests.    


Showing 50 of 75 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Baker, P. (2018). Identifying the connection between Roman Conceptions of ‘Pure Air’ and Physical and Mental Health in Pompeian Gardens (c. 150 BC-AD 79): A Multi-Sensory Approach to Ancient Medicine. World Archaeology [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2018.1487332.
    Different genres of Roman literature commented on the relationship between
    the condition of the environment and physical and mental health. They often
    refer to clear, pure, or good air as a beneficial aspect of the environment. Yet,
    unlike fetid air, they provide few descriptions of what constituted healthy air
    quality. Moreover, aside from pointing out the association between the
    environment and bodily condition, the writers also did not explain precisely how
    the link between the two was made. This paper utilizes a comparative study of
    ancient literature and the archaeological remains of Roman gardens in
    Pompeii: archaeobotanical samples, fresco paintings, location, and surviving
    features. Three questions are addressed in this study: First, how did the
    Romans identify and define pure? Second, how did air connect to the body?
    Third, what were the qualities of pure air and how did they benefit the body?
    Not only was inhalation a means of linking air to the body, but the two were also
    related through sensory perception. I argue that sight, sound, and olfaction
    were used to identify the qualities of pure air. Through the sensory process of
    identification, the beneficial properties of pure air were, in accordance with
    ancient perceptions of sensory function, taken into the body and affected
    health. Thus, sensory perception acted as the bridge between the environment
    and health.
  • Baker, P. (2017). Viewing Health: Asclepia in their Natural Settings. Religion in the Roman Empire [Online] 3:143-163. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1628/219944617X15008820103342.
    In this paper, it is argued that there existed a Greco-Roman perception that the views of the surrounding landscapes from Greek healing sanctuaries contributed towards the heath of the pilgrim who visited the sites. Although much has been written about the religious aspects of the healing event in Asclepia, the physical environment of the sanctuaries has yet to be examined. It is, nonetheless significant, allowing us a further understanding of the pilgrims' experience in these places that extends beyond ritual practice. The Asclepia share similar views, facing the mountains, the sea or both. By comparing the orientation of healing sanctuaries with ancient medical and philosophical literature, it is demonstrated that part of the healing experience in a sanctuary involved the stimulation of the senses. For this study, the focus is on the sense of sight. Pleasant views had a calming effect on the mind, which in turn influenced the health of the viewer. Thus, the healing event was enhanced by the visitor's interactive relationship with the surrounding environment.
  • Bellosi, G. et al. (2013). The Late Antique and Early Medieval Habitat and Church on the Monte S. Martino, Riva del Garda District, North Italy. Medieval Settlement Research [Online] 28:9-17. Available at: http://medieval-settlement.com/publications/journal/vol28/.
  • Baker, P. (2011). Collyrium Stamps: An Indicator of Regional Medical Practices in Roman Gaul. European Journal of Archaeology [Online] 14:158-189. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1179/146195711798369364.
    Collyrium stamps, objects used to mark eye medicines, are more commonly found in Gaul than any other Roman province. Since they appear after Roman occupation, it is believed they evince a spread of Roman medicine, but this idea is not well-supported. Through a detailed study of the collyrizzm stamps it is apparent that the stamps took on other functions beyond marking remedies. They were used as amulets and votive offerings, signined by the fact that most are made of steatite and schist, almost all are green a colour associated with eye care, and a number are decorated with magical symbols, and also by their context. Ultimately, the manner in which they were used demonstrates an adaptation of Roman material culture to fit the practices and beliefs based on earlier Iron Age traditions in the region.
  • Baker, P. (2011). Re-evaluating the Identification of Roman Military Hospitals. Association of Roman Archaeology Newsletter [Online]:20. Available at: http://www.associationromanarchaeology.org/newnewsletter.htm.
  • Baker, P. et al. (2010). Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2009 - Mapping Wallingford Castle. Medieval Archaeology [Online] 54:416-420. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/174581710X12790370816011.
  • Baker, P. (2005). Field Systems on Overton Down South, near Avebury. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine 98:340-342.
    Report on the excavation in 2002 of a lynchet previously identified as part of a series of earthwork enclosures and field systems on Overton Down South, Fyfield Down, Avebury, and believed to date originally to the late-second or early-first millennium BC, having been abandoned during the Iron Age and brought back into cultivation in the Romano-British period.
  • Baker, P. (2004). Roman Medical Instruments: Archaeological Interpretations of their Possible 'Non-functional uses'. Social History of Medicine 17:3-21.
    Roman medical tools have traditionally been defined by scholars in accordance with what has been written about them in the classical medical tests. Yet, other possible functions, as well as meanings and feelings related to them that have not been recorded in the literature, have never been explored. It is important to attempt to learn how people understood medical instruments because it can give us a greater insight into feelings about medical care in general. It is possible to learn these other uses and feelings through an examination of the archaeological context in which the instruments were found. Three case studies are examined to demonstrate associated meanings, such as a fear of pollution, and ‘non-functional’ or ‘non-rational’ uses of the instruments as votive offerings, demonstrating the complex and varied nature of Roman understandings of tools related to healing and ultimately illness.
  • Pollard, J. and Baker, P. (1999). Early Roman Activity at Keeley Lane, Wootton. Bedfordshire Archaeology [Online] 23:90-97. Available at: http://www.baalhs.org.uk/vol19to24.htm.
    Reports on a small test excavation undertaken in 1995 in the front garden of a property. A substantial assemblage of first-century pottery was recovered in association with contemporary ditches. The pottery, along with some animal bone, appeared to have been deposited into a ditch in a simultaneous act – the (possibly ritual) reasons for this deposition are discussed.


  • Baker, P. (2013). The Archaeology of Medicine in the Greco-Roman World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    This book teaches students and scholars of Greco-Roman medical history how to use and critically assess archaeological materials. Ancient medicine is a subject dominated by textual sources, yet there is a wealth of archaeological remains that can be used to broaden our understanding of medicine in the past. In order to use the information properly, this book explains how to ask questions of an archaeological nature, how to access different types of archaeological materials, and how to overcome problems the researcher might face. It also acts as an introduction to the archaeology of medicine for archaeologists interested in this aspect of their subject. Although the focus is on the Greco-Roman period, the methods and theories explained within the text can be applied to other periods in history. The areas covered include text as material culture, images, artifacts, spaces of medicine, and science and archaeology.
  • Baker, P. (2004). Medical Care for the Roman Army on the Rhine, Danube and British Frontiers from the First through Third Centuries AD. UK: BAR International Series.
    This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of medical practice in the Roman Army. Before it was written there was a general understanding that medical practice in the army was the same throughout the Roman Empire, but there is no evidence for this. By examining the medical tools, inscriptions and buildings identified as hospitals the author notes that there is little evidence of uniformity. The evidence examined suggests that medical practices differed between units, possibly because of the policy of the governor of the province, the commander of the army, or the cultural practices of medicine in the units. The book has injected new life into a debate, and triggered an invitation to an international conference in Spain in June 2007.

Book section

  • Baker, P. (2017). Greco-Roman Paediatrics. in: Aasgaard, R. and Horn, C. eds. Childhood in History: Perceptions of Children in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 77-93. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/9781472468925.
  • Baker, P. (2017). Tastes and Digestion: archaeology and medicine in Roman Italy. in: Rudolph, K. ed. Taste and the Ancient Senses. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/9781844658695.
  • Baker, P. (2016). Medicine. in: Millett, M., Revell, L. and Moore, A. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 555-572. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697731.001.0001.
  • Baker, P. (2015). Images of Doctors and their Implements: A Visual Dialogue between the Patient and the Doctor. in: Petridou, G. and Kolleg, M. -W. eds. Homo Patiens - Approaches to the Patient in the Ancient World. Leiden: Brill, pp. 365-389. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1163/9789004305564_016.
    Images of physicians, patients, and medical instruments were placed on Graeco-Roman funerary monuments, altars and fresco paintings. These representations are examined here to determine whether there existed a standard convention by which physicians were depicted in order that the lay and possibly illiterate viewers could identify what the scene represented. Greek physicians were frequently shown with cupping vessels, midwives were seen with birthing stools, while Roman physicians were often shown with various surgical implements. It is argued that the correlation between the types of objects depicted with the medical practitioner was deliberately made by the artist to signify the nature of medicine in the individual practiced, to that the viewer could identify the role the practitioner had in their society
  • Baker, P., King, H. and Totelin, L. (2014). Teaching Ancient Medicine: The Issues of Abortion. in: Sorkin Rabinowitz, N. and McHardy, F. eds. From Abortion to Pederasty: Addressing Difficult Topics in the Classics Classroom. Ohio State University Press, pp. 71-91. Available at: https://ohiostatepress.org/books/BookPages/Rabinowitz%20McHardy%20Difficult.html.
  • Baker, P. (2012). Medieval Islamic Hospitals: Spatial Design and Social Concepts. in: Baker, P. A., Nijdam, H. and van't Land, K. eds. Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, pp. 245-272. Available at: http://www.brill.nl/medicine-and-space.
  • Baker, P. (2012). Children, Health and Science. in: Laurence, R. and Harlow, M. eds. A Cultural History of Childhood and Family in Antiquity. Oxford: Berg, pp. 153-170.
  • Baker, P. (2012). 'Hygiene: Greece and Rome'; 'Pregnancy'; and ‘Deafness'. in: Bagnall, R. et al. eds. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
    Three entries in the Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Ancient History
  • Baker, P. and Nijdam, H. (2011). Introduction: Conceptualizing, Body, Space and Borders. in: Baker, P. A., Nijdam, H. and van't Land, K. eds. Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, pp. 1-22. Available at: http://www.brill.nl/medicine-and-space.
  • Baker, P. (2009). Medicine, Death and Military Virtues. in: Marco Simón, F., Pino Polo, F. and Remesal Rodríguez, J. eds. Formae Mortis: El Tránsito de la Vida a la Muerte en las Sociedades Antiguas. Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona, pp. 25-37.
  • Baker, P. (2006). ‘Feminism’ and ‘Soap’. in: Shipley, G. et al. eds. The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Two entries in the Cambridge Dictionary of the Classical World
  • Baker, P. (2003). A Brief Comment on the TRAC Session Dedicated to the Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Roman Women. in: Swift, E. V., Carr, G. and Weekes, J. eds. TRAC 2002, Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 140-146.
    This paper explores the importance of taking an interdisciplinary approach to the study of women in the ancient world.
  • Baker, P. (2002). Introduction. in: Baker, P. A. and Carr, G. eds. Practitioners, Practices and Patients: New Approaches to Medical Archaeology and Anthropology: Conference Proceedings. Oxford: Oxbow Books, p. vii-xi.
  • Baker, P. (2002). The Roman Military Valetudinaria: Fact or Fiction? in: Arnott, R. ed. The Archaeology of Medicine Proceedings of the Theoretical Archaeology Group 1998. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports Archaeopress, pp. 69-80.
    This paper questions whether Roman military hospitals have been properly identified in the archaeological evidence. The author is not convinced by the scholarship that adheres to the understanding that we know what Roman hospitals were. The buildings that have been identified as such were so justified at the beginning of the last century on the basis of a single structure with a room that contained medical tools. In comparison with other structures and buildings there is not enough evidence in the archaeological record to support such an argument. Again this has sparked a debate on how we identify buildings used for health and healing.
  • Baker, P. (2002). Diagnosing Some Ills: The Archaeology, Literature and History of Roman Medicine. in: Baker, P. A. and Carr, G. eds. Practitioners, Practices and Patients: New Approaches to Medical Archaeology and Anthropology: Conference Proceedings. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 16-29.
    This paper questions two points: the manner in which archaeologists interpret medical tools from the Greco-Roman era and how scholars of ancient medical literature disregard archaeological evidence in their interpretations of past medical practices. In this author argues that archaeology can contribute much to our knowledge of medical treatment in the past, but warns that until very recently the archaeological studies has remained descriptive, avoiding any theoretical interpretation: this may account for the neglect of archaeological evidence hitherto. The paper has already begun to change professional perceptions in this respect.
  • Baker, P. (2001). Medicine, Culture and Military Identity. in: Davis, G., Gardner, A. and Lockyear, C. eds. TRAC 2000: Proceedings of the 10th Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 51-70.
    This paper considers the question of Roman military identity in regards to the soldiers' choices of medical practice.

Edited book

  • Baker, P. (2011). Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. [Online]. Baker, P. A., Nijdam, H. and van't Land, K. eds. Leiden: Brill. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004226500.
    The papers in this volume question how perceptions of space influenced understandings of the body and its functions, illness and treatment, and the surrounding natural and built environments in relation to health in the classical and medieval periods.
  • Baker, P.A. and Carr, G. eds. (2002). Practitioners, Practices and Patients: New Approaches to Medical Archaeology and Anthropology: Conference Proceedings. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
    This book is a collection of papers that consider the impotance of material culture in the use of medical history and archaeology.
  • Baker, P.A. et al. eds. (1999). TRAC 98: The Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference Proceedings 1998. [Online]. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Available at: http://trac.org.uk/pubs/#trac-1998-leicester-open-access.

Internet publication

  • Baker, P. (2010). Medical Practices in Roman Spain: Report on a Pilot Study of the Archaeological Remains of Medical Tools [Web-based discussion group]. Available at: http://traumwerk.stanford.edu/archaeolog/2010/08/medical_practices_in_roman_spa.html.
    In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder (25. 85) stated that the Cantabri, an indigenous group of people who lived in the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, devised an elixir consisting of one-hundred herbs that they drank to maintain their health. Pliny’s story is one of a rare few comments in ancient literature that refers to localised traditions of medical practices in the Roman provinces. His statement was the initiating factor in undertaking a pilot study that asked how the native populations of the three provinces of Roman Spain responded to the introduction of Graeco-Roman medical philosophies and practices in contrast to their own healing traditions after the incorporation of Hispania into the empire (1st century BC). This paper gives a short overview of my preliminary findings and explains why it is necessary to consider provincial medical practices in historical examinations of Roman medicine from an archaeological perspective.
  • Baker, P. (2009). Archaeological Remains as a Source of Evidence for Roman Medicine [Internet: Medicina Antiqua]. Available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgajpd/medicina%20antiqua/mm_essays.html.


  • Baker, P. (2018). Book Review. Journal of Roman Studies [Online] 108:235-236. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0075435818000539.
  • Baker, P. (2013). Review of J. Casas and J.M. Nolla, 'Instrumental de hierro de época de la Antigüedad Tardía en el N.E. de la Península Ibérica'. Medieval Archaeology [Online] 56:369-360. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/0076609714Z.00000000045.
  • Baker, P. (2013). Review of Don Walker, 'Disease in London, 1st-19th Centuries. An Illustrated Guide to Diagnosis'. Medieval Archaeology [Online] 57:379-379. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/0076609713Z.00000000028.
    xix+287 pp, 446 colour and b&w figs, 2 tables. London: Museum of London Archaeology, 2012. isbn 978-1-907586-10-1. Price: £28·00 hb.
  • Baker, P. (2013). Review of K. Krötzl and K. Mustakallio, 'On Old Age: Approaching Death in Antiquity and the Middle Ages'. Medieval Archaeology [Online] 57:378-379. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/0076609713Z.00000000028.
  • Baker, P. (2012). Review of Barbara Zipser (ed), 'John the Physician's Therapeutics. A Medical Handbook in Vernacular Greek'. The Classical Review [Online] 62:138-139. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0009840X11003246.
  • Baker, P. (2011). Review of Eva-Maria Lackner, 'Republikanische Fora'. Journal of Roman Studies [Online] 101:321-322. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0075435811000785.
  • Baker, P. (2011). Review of Joshua Eyler, 'Disability in the Middle Ages: Reconsiderations and Reverberations'. Medieval Archaeology 55:423.
  • Baker, P. (2011). Review of 'Housesteads Roman Fort - The Grandest Station'. 'Excavation and Survey at Housesteads, 1954-95', by Charles Daniels, John Gillam, James Crow and Others; and 'Finds from the Frontier. Material Culture in the 4th-5th Centuries', by Rob Collins and Linday Allason-Jones. Medieval Archaeology [Online] 55:335-336. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/174581711X13103897378726.
  • Baker, P. (2009). Review of Leonhard Burckhardt, 'Militärgeschichte der Antike'. Bryn Mawr Classical Review:1-2.
  • Baker, P. (2007). Review of Helen King (ed), 'Health in Antiquity'. Journal of Hellenic Studies [Online] 127:197-198. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0075426900002123.
  • Baker, P. (2006). Review of Martha L. Rose, 'The Staff of Oedipus: Transforming Disability in Ancient Greece'. Medical History [Online] 1:120-121. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1369020/.
  • Baker, P. (2006). Review of B. Croxford (ed) et al, 'TRAC 2003: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Leicester 2003'. Britannia XXXVII:501-502.
  • Baker, P. (2004). Review of T. Minamikawa (ed), 'Material Culture, Mentality and Historical Identity in the Ancient World: Understanding the Celts, Greeks, Romans and Modern Europeans. Proceedings of the First International Conference for the Study of European Identity from a Historical Perspective in September 2003'. Bryn Mawr Classical Review:1-2.
  • Baker, P. (2004). Review of Medicina Antiqua: Medical History Web Page. Bryn Mawr Classical Review [Online]:1-2. Available at: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2004/2004-09-05.html.
  • Baker, P. (2003). Review of Andrew Pearson, 'The Roman Shore Forts: Coastal Defences in Southern Britain'. Archaeologia Cantiana 123:413-415.
  • Baker, P. (2002). The Roman Medical Woman: Review of 'Medicine and the Making of Roman Women'. The Classical Review [Online] 52:127-127. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cr/52.1.127.


  • Baker, P. (2019). Objects. in: Totelin, L. ed. Culture History of Medicine in Antiquity. Bloomsbury.
  • Baker, P. (2017). Review of A Cabinet of Ancient Medical Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Healing Arts of Greece and Rome. Social History of Medicine [Online]:1-2. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkx087.
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