The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Stature and mortality in post-medieval London


Department of Anthropology, University at Albany

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

This study examines the relationship between stature and mortality in post-medieval London, and how that relationship may have varied with socioeconomic status. Chi-square analysis and odds ratios were used to determine if there was an association between adult tibia, femur, or tibia+femur lengths (proxies for stature) and age at death, using skeletal data from the London cemeteries of Chelsea Old Church (high status), Saint Benet Sherehog (middle status), and Lower Saint Bride’s (low status).

When the three cemeteries were treated as a single sample, there were no significant relationships found between limb length and age at death. When examined separately, an association between stature and age at death emerged exclusively in males of the high status component, such that the odds of dying before age 46 were significantly higher for males of short stature than for males of average or above average stature.

There were no statistically significant results for females from any cemetery sample. The results suggest that the relationship between stature and mortality is influenced by sex and socioeconomic status. Individuals who were particularly short may have been more likely to die during childhood, except where higher social status presumably offered some degree of buffering from morbidity and mortality. Wealth may not have conferred such an advantage on females, perhaps due to preferential parental investment in sons in high status families. Investigation of juvenile mortality, and its social contexts, may further clarify these adult mortality patterns.

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