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

Coins, kids, and culture: an examination of grave goods and health at the Drawsko 1 cemetery site (17th – 18th centuries)


1Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, 2Department of Anthropology, State University of New York, College at Oneonta

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Coins have been used for centuries as the mainstay of commerce; they have also played an important symbolic role in mortuary contexts. Coins accompanying burials is perhaps most notably described in Greek history, but was also present in post-medieval Poland. The Drawsko 1 site is unique in that it has evidence of deviant burials correlated to Slavic folklore and vampires. Historical records from this period regarding such burials suggest that the inclusion of coins may have provided protection to the soul after death. At Drawsko, 73 subadults have been recovered and 26 of these individuals were buried with coins (36%). The argument is made that subadults were more vulnerable to vampirism and, therefore, were more consistently buried with coins for protection. However, not all subadults were buried with coins, suggesting that some individuals were perhaps more vulnerable than others. We hypothesize that this vulnerability is correlated with biological health. Subadults were examined for evidence of stress, dietary deficiencies, infection, and trauma. However, results indicate that rates of pathological conditions did not differ significantly between subadults interred with coins and those not buried with coins (chi-square, p<0.05). These unexpected results suggest that some factor other than health was used to determine whether a child should receive special protection in their interment. We conclude that social factors played a more significant role in mortuary patterning than biology.

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