Differential infant and child mortality and morbidity in Late Anglo-Saxon England

Ronika Power, Holger Schutkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


Distributions of mortality and morbidity during infancy and childhood provide meaningful proxies for ambient living conditions and the local socio-ecology of past societies. Whilst age-related trends have been extensively studied in this regard, the biological sex of juvenile individuals is largely excluded from demographic configurations despite suitable methods available for assessing sex from sub-adult skeletons. This study investigates whether the inclusion of sub-adult sex amongst Late Anglo-Saxon (10th-12th centuries AD) population data provides indications or differential child and infant mortality and morbidity, as well as inferences regarding biases in parental care. Methods of morphological sex assessment were applied to the sub-adult components of the proto-urban St. Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber (N=108), and rural Raunds Furnells (N=152) assemblages. Osteological analysis indicates that differential child and infant mortality and morbidity were extant at both sites, with females predominating amongst the samples, in particular during early childhood. These results stand in opposition to the initial research hypothesis of higher male mortality due to inherent biological weakness and enhanced female vigour. Unbalanced mortality and morbidity sex ratios are synthesised with historical, archaeological and ethnographical evidence to infer that female offspring received diminished parental investment at both Barton-upon-Humber and Raunds Furnells under complex environmental and social conditions. Substantial disparity in mortality sex ratios between the sites is suggestive of regional bio-cultural variation in parental behaviour, with extremely low ratios at Raunds, inferring that gender discrimination against females was more severe in the rural population. RP was supported by an Australian Commonwealth Scholarship (UCR-2006-8).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-192
Number of pages1
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventAnnual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (79th : 2010) - Albuquerque, USA
Duration: 14 Apr 201017 Apr 2010


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