Comparison of child morbidity in two contrasting medieval cemeteries from Denmark
Bennike, P., Lewis, M. E., Schutkowski, H. and Valentin, F. (2005) Comparison of child morbidity in two contrasting medieval cemeteries from Denmark. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 128 (4). pp. 734-746. ISSN 0002-9483
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.20233
This study compares associations between demographic profiles, long bone lengths, bone mineral content, and frequencies of stress indicators in the preadult populations of two medieval skeletal assemblages from Denmark. One is from a leprosarium, and thus probably represents a disadvantaged group (Naestved). The other comes from a normal, and in comparison rather privileged, medieval community (AEbelholt). Previous studies of the adult population indicated differences between the two skeletal collections with regard to mortality, dental size, and metabolic and specific infectious disease. The two samples were analyzed against the view known as the "osteological paradox" (Wood et al.  Curr. Anthropol. 33:343-370), according to which skeletons displaying pathological modification are likely to represent the healthier individuals of a population, whereas those without lesions would have died without acquiring modifications as a result of a depressed immune response. Results reveal that older age groups among the preadults from Naestved are shorter and have less bone mineral content than their peers from AEbelholt. On average, the Naestved children have a higher prevalence of stress indicators, and in some cases display skeletal signs of leprosy. This is likely a result of the combination of compromised health and social disadvantage, thus supporting a more traditional interpretation. The study provides insights into the health of children from two different biocultural settings of medieval Danish society and illustrates the importance of comparing samples of single age groups.