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

Cementochronology and Gender : a reappraisal of adult survival in past societies


1Forensic Taphonomy Unit-Anthropology, Univ Lille Northern France F-59000, FRANCE, 2Bioarcheology Laboratory, Centre d'Etudes Paléopathologiques du Nord, FRANCE, 3Direction de l'Archéologie, Communauté d'Agglomération du Douaisis, FRANCE, 4UMR5199, PACEA, Bordeaux 1 University F-33000, FRANCE

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Knowledge of the mortality hazards linked to status for women in past populations meets two obstacles: the first is our inability to statistically control maternal and infant mortality due to bad taphonomic preservation of fetal bones; the second is the low correlation of individual age estimates by conventional methods.

The application of cementochronology to 23 series representing a total of 1037 individuals from the antiquity to the end of the medieval period in northern France allows calculations and comparisons of survival curves by sex for adults.

The study of these curves shows that male and female groups in cemeteries associated with religious institutions (monasteries and church burials) demonstrates significantly higher survival rate for all ages categories compared to more secular communities, both rural and urban. For the latter, if in the vast majority of series and pooled samples there was no statistically significant difference, a gradual decline in female survival rate of various intensities is visible between 20 and 50 years of age. After 50, the two survival curves merge or intersect. A smaller sample of 45 skeletons with tuberculosis lesions shows an equivalent decline of survival for women.

The attribution to maternal mortality of these survival rates during the reproductive period illustrated by cementochronology is also discussed.

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