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Title: The connections between health and diet in prehistoric populations
Author: McSweeney, Kathleen Janet
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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The connections between health and diet in modern populations are well established. Numerous studies have been conducted attempting to assess the dietary health of prehistoric populations from an examination of their skeletal remains. The health status of a population can provide crucial evidence in discussions of major changes in subsistence, and, in theory, much can be established from a study of skeletal remains. Assessments of child and adult mortality, stature, dental health, the identification of specific nutritional deficiency diseases and other conditions can provide vital evidence to enable an interpretation of dietary sufficiency to be made. However, in practical terms, there are many problems in conducting such a study. Poor preservation of skeletal remains, inadequate retrieval methods, a skeletal assemblage unrepresentative of the size or composition of the whole population, inaccurate methods of osteological analysis, and the non-specific nature of many pathological lesions, can influence the results. This thesis takes a practical look at extracting evidence relating to diet from skeletal remains. As a vehicle for testing the feasibilities of linking skeletal manifestations to diet, the human remains from two very different prehistoric populations are examined. One is a tall, robust, late Mesolithic population, in apparent good health, from the site at Schela Cladovei in the Iron Gates region of the Danube Valley, Romania. Most of the skeletal remains were well preserved and in full articulation and burial was mainly by single inhumation. The inhabitants would have had access to abundant natural food resources, especially fish and other aquatic food resources from the Danube. The other group is from an Early Bronze Age pit-grave, Tomb N, in Hili Gardens, A1 Ain, United Arab Emirates. The tomb contained the fragmentary, commingled remains of hundreds of individuals. Although situated in an oasis, food resources in the hot, arid environment would have been restricted. The results of the osteological analyses of these two populations, the accuracy of the methods used and the resulting interpretations of dietary health are analysed and discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available