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Title: Childhood development and adult longevity in archaeological populations from medieval and post-medieval England (AD950-1855)
Author: Watts, Rebecca
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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This study examined the age-at-death distribution of multiple indicators of non-specific stress in archaeological populations from multi-period sites spanning medieval and postmedieval England (AD 950-1855). The aim was to assess how disruptions during specific periods of childhood development (between six months of age to growth completion) affected adult longevity. It was hypothesised that greater levels of childhood stress would have a negative impact on long term health, resulting in reduced adult longevity. This would be evident in a greater prevalence of stress indicators among individuals who died during early adulthood. Adult skeletons from Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire (a small market town), and 13 London cemeteries were examined for the presence of cribra orbitalia and linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), reduced diameters of the vertebral neural canal (VNC), fluctuating asymmetry of the craniofacial skeleton and short femoral lengths. Individuals who died between 18-25 years had experienced chronic ill-health before 15 years of age, resulting in smaller transverse diameters of the VNC than individuals who lived into older adulthood. Levels of LEH were comparable in all age categories, suggesting illnesses responsible for enamel defects did not have a detrimental effect on longevity. An earlier age-at-death for males and females with small transverse VNC diameters was observed at both sites and all cemetery periods, excepting low status females and high status males from post-medieval London. Similarities in the prevalence of stress indicators at Barton-upon-Humber and London may suggest that many adults living in London were migrants who grew up in small towns where environmental conditions were similar to Barton-upon-Humber. Females with a history of poor health were unlikely to migrate, while the privileged status of wealthy males protected them from health insults. This study demonstrates how analysing multiple stress indicators can elucidate the long term sequelae of stress which occurred at specific periods of childhood development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available