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

Status and stature: analysis of the association between socioeconomic status and adult stature in medieval London c. 1350-1538


Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina

Thursday All day, Park Concourse Add to calendar

Adult stature reflects, among other things, exposure to physiological stressors such as disease and malnutrition during development. Studies in living and past populations have found significant positive associations between stature and health, and negative associations between stature and risks of mortality. Examination of the relationship between social status and stature has yielded conflicting results, with only some studies finding significant associations between the two. This study examines stature variation within and between higher and lower status adults in the St. Mary Grace cemetery in London dated to 1350-1538 (n = 52). Using femur and tibia maximum lengths as a proxy for stature, this analysis tests the hypothesis that high status individuals are better buffered from physiological stressors during development and have higher mean adult stature, and less variation thereof, compared to low status individuals. The results indicate that among males, high status individuals are significantly taller and that variation in stature is significantly lower. Among females, there are no significant differences in mean stature or variation in stature between high and low status individuals. A higher proportion of low status individuals are below the mean stature for sex, though this difference is not statistically significant. These results may indicate a more varied diet or heightened exposure to physiological stressors for lower status people. The lack of an association between status and stature among females may indicate that females were better buffered against physiological stress than males, which could have acted to reduce the differences between socioeconomic status for females.

Data for this study come from a project funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation (#8247)

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