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

The spatial distribution of skeletal stress indicators in a 4th century Romano-British sample: a study using ArcGIS


Anthropology, Michigan State University, Colleges of Medicine, Michigan State University

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The Butt Road cemetery from Colchester England is a large Roman cemetery primarily in use during the 4th century AD. A stratified random sample of 153 individuals from Period 2 of the cemetery is used to investigate the spatial distribution of skeletal stress indicators including linear enamel hypoplasias, cribra orbitalia, maxillary sinusitis, and periostitis of the tibia within the cemetery. The mortuary treatment of individuals within this cemetery is very uniform. All 4th century AD graves were oriented east-west and grave goods were rarely included in these burials. The uniformity in burial treatment suggests that these individuals shared the same group identity and may have shared the same general socioeconomic background.

ArcGIS is used to map the distribution of each variable within the cemetery. The cemetery is analyzed using visual inspection, high/low (Gettis order) cluster analysis, and chi-square. Visual inspection of the cemetery suggests that subadults may be buried in groups rather than being evenly distributed among adult males and females. There does not appear to be a preference for location of adult male or adult female burials. High/low cluster analysis results indicate that age, sex, and skeletal stress distributions are fairly random in spatial distribution. The lack of significant clustering of skeletal stress indicators suggests that the burial sample was drawn from individuals living in and around Roman Colchester with the same group identity and a similar socioeconomic background.

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