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

Status, health, and lifestyle in Iron Age Britain: a bioarchaeological study of elites and non-elites from East Yorkshire


Central Identification Laboratory, JPAC

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

The development of socially-ranked societies has been associated with disparities in human health in a variety of settings, both contemporary and archaeologically. The unique context of the Arras Culture of East Yorkshire provides an excellent opportunity to explore how health and lifestyle may have varied in relation to social factors in Iron Age Britain. Specifically, this research tests the hypothesis that the archaeologically-defined subgroups reflect a socially-ranked society in which the elite and non-elite groups (1) were differentially buffered against physiological stress and infectious disease; (2) consumed dissimilar foods; and (3) were exposed to different patterns of physical activity.

Bioarchaeological data were collected from two middle Iron Age (450-120 BC) cemeteries from the East Yorkshire region of Britain (n=220). Social status was inferred from orientational cosmology, animal symbolism, and grave goods provision. Results indicate a significant difference in hypoplastic lesions (p≤0.05), with a higher frequency observed in non-elite individuals, whereas the prevalence of cribra orbitalia (p=0.81) and periostitis (p=0.57) do not differ between the groups. The similar degree of dental wear (p≥0.05) and frequency of carious lesions (p=0.22) suggest a common dietary pattern, despite a significantly higher prevalence of antemortem tooth loss among the elite (p≤0.01). A generally higher frequency of vertebral osteoarthritis (p≤0.08) and trauma (p≤0.08) among the non-elite is suggestive of exposure to a different pattern of physical activity. These findings partially support the hypothesis that differences in health and lifestyle exist between the archaeologically-defined elite and non-elite groups in Iron Age East Yorkshire.

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