The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)


Anglo-Saxon concepts of dis/ability: placing disease at Great Chesterford in its wider context

SIMON MAYS1, SONIA R. ZAKRZEWSKI2, SARAH A. INSKIP3, STEPHANIE WRIGHT2 and JOANNA R. SOFAER2.

1Archaeology, English Heritage, 2Archaeology, University of Southampton, 3Archaeology, Leiden University

March 27, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 3 Add to calendar

The cemetery of Great Chesterford lies to the southeast of Cambridge in East Anglia. A series of 167 inhumations from 161 Anglo-Saxon graves have been re-examined. Pathologies not described in the original skeletal report included cases of tuberculosis and leprosy. For an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, the assemblage has a relatively large proportion of juveniles. Some of these juveniles themselves exhibit pathological conditions, such as extreme periosteal reactive bone growth (potentially hypertrophic (pulmonary) osteoarthropathy). The patterning and location of both the pathologies and the juveniles within the cemetery implies the recognition of unusual and anomalous individuals by and within the local community. Were these individuals considered ‘ill’ or ‘impaired’ by the local community? Aspects of the palaeopathology and the bodily implications are discussed. How did the disease processes affect the individuals’ lives? Using a series of osteobiographies derived from the Great Chesterford burials, aspects of disability in the Anglo-Saxon period are considered.