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A woman's world: a bioarchaeological approach to the Romano-British female life course

McGovern, C. (2019) A woman's world: a bioarchaeological approach to the Romano-British female life course. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00085543


This thesis examines Romano-British women using a life course approach and from a holistic perspective by combining archaeological, historical and biological information. Within the female life course three physical events or transitions occur which directly relate to shifts within society: puberty, childbirth and menopause. These transitions were explored using 436 females between the ages of 10.0 and 44.9 from 11 southern Romano-British urban centres. These sites are of different legal status and size, with some examples bordering between urban and rural, providing insights into the lower status and local populations as well as towns of higher legal status. All individuals are dated to the later (2nd – 5 th century) Roman period. The Females between 10.0 and 24.9 years of age were included within the puberty subsample (n=136) and placed into six categories ranging from Initiation to Completion. Puberty primarily took place over 5 years with a mean age for menarche of 14.1 years. The shape and development of the pelvis also directly impacts a successful pregnancy and vaginal birth. Based on measurements of the pelvic inlet, midplane and outlet, 398 females were assigned to three categories: no contraction, at-risk and high risk. Within the sample, 100% (n=12) of females aged 13.0-15.9 years and 78.6% (n=11) of those between 16.0 and 17.9 years were contracted. Therefore, is highly unlikely that women under 18 years were frequently able to deliver vaginally. The developmental obstetric dilemma (DOD) hypothesis was investigated through pelvis typology and pelvimetry. Pathologies and morphological changes associated with obstetrics including prematurely fused coccyx and osteophyte growth were also examined as potential hazards. Stature, body mass (BM) and Body Mass Index (BMI) were determined based on femoral measurements. This research is the first to explore the female life course using a bioarchaeological approach to puberty and childbirth.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Lewis, M. and Eckardt, H.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:85543


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