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The Comparative Palaeopathology of Males and Females in English Medieval Skeletal Samples in a Social Context

Clare Duncan
Publication Year:
240pp. Illustrated throughout in black and white. 93 tables, 25 figures.
BAR number:


The aim of this study was to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that males and females in medieval England experienced differences in health and mortality which could be objectively demonstrated from their skeletal remains. Palaeopathological data pertaining to a total sample of 1,056 adult males and 674 adult females (c.1066-1540 AD) were compared statistically. A method for sexing subadults using tooth measurements was also developed, enabling the comparative analysis to be extended experimentally to a further 83 (47 'male', 36 'female') individuals aged c.5-18 years.

The collective analysis of four stress indicators (stature, enamel hypoplasia, cribra orbitalia, non-specific infection) suggested males experienced poorer general health. Males displayed a higher prevalence of fractures, violent injuries, osteoarthritis and Schmorl's nodes. Females exhibited a proclivity toward knee osteoarthritis and inferior dental health. A statistically significant sex difference in age at death was not demonstrated. Interpretations for the observed patterns are discussed and limitations of the method are evaluated.

Since completing a PhD in Biological Anthropology and a BSc (Hons) in Archaeological Sciences with First Class Honours, Dr Clare Duncan has enjoyed a career in television, working for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and broadcasters overseas.

‘It has great informational and educational value for different professionals interested in the research on human remains, like forensic anthropologists, forensic archeologists, forensic odontologists, and students connected with this field… All chapters have clear sub-headings, and follow a similar structure to include introduction, methodology, results and discussions, limitations are extensively evaluated and recommendations for future research are made… It adds evidence to the growing recognition of the value of skeletal human remains to complement historical evidence in the research on past human societies.’ Cezar Capitaneanu, Journal of Forensic Odonto-Stomatology, Vol 36 n. 2, Dec 2018

Table of Contents (B629_9781407321578_ToC.pdf, 152 Kb) [Download]