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

A reappraisal of ancient hypotheses on stress markers using cementochronology


1INRAP and Amiens Métropole Nord-Picardie, 2Centre d’Etudes Paléopathologiques du Nord, 3Anthropology, Université de Lille, 4PACEA-UMR 5199, CNRS, 5Service Régional de l’Archéologie de Picardie, SRA

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Since Walker and colleague’s paper (2009) and the publication of the History of Health in the Western Hemisphere, the causes and demo-dynamique impact of the so-called markers of stress have not been re-addressed. Nevertheless, a general consensus around diet deficiencies and infections during growth periods prevail among bio-archeologists.

The issue of their impact on survival of adults with lesions described as cribra orbitalia (CO) , cribra femoris (CF) and hypoplasia (LEH), was tested on two adult French samples (Nurban = 355 and Nrural=250; AD 250-550) whose individual age-at-death was estimated using cementochronology.

No correlation was found between skeletons with and without signs of LEH, while a highly significant difference (> 10 years) was found in favor individuals unaffected by CO and CF.

When compared to a pooled sample of Tuberculosis (TB) skeletons, the survival curves of cribras samples are similar while the TB one looks significantly better. LEH has no impact on the adult median age at death and survival curve but CO and CF have a significant one (> 10 years).

If the etiology of both cribras occurred during the developmental phases of life, mainly during population crisis, it is difficult to hypothesize why after recovery the healed individuals experienced such a declining life expectancy. A chronic infection or lasting deleterious life conditions associated with very low social status could be the logical explanation.

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