The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Population dynamics within graveyards


Biological Anthropology, University of Freiburg

Thursday 11:30-11:45, 200ABC Add to calendar

This study introduces a new approach to detect spatial distribution patterns within graveyards, avoiding the necessity to divide the material into distinct groups, where convincing assumptions that motivate such divisions are missing. The routine, which is based on a moving focus, analyzing a large number of overlapping subsamples, can be applied to any anthropological or archaeological parameter, in this case trauma analysis in the large early medieval graveyard of Lauchheim from the Swabian Alb in Germany. Previous research on effects of armed violence showed that cranial trauma was virtually absent in females. The objective of this study was to detect phases of over- and under-representation of males in the mortality profile and to spot irregular mortality patterns. As burials were placed in sequence, temporal change can be assessed through spatial analysis of the graveyard's layout.

Age at death and hazard rates were analyzed for groups of 50 individuals, centering on each of the 988 adult skeletons that allowed for age estimation. As these groups largely overlap, differences between them can track minute distribution changes. Additionally, a Gompertz-Makeham model was fitted to each subset, in order to study age-related and age-independent parameters. Risk of death varied among age classes and is compared to age-specific prevalences of trauma. For the model, goodness of fit related largely to degrees of material preservation, but revealed some areas of deviation from the expected pattern.

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