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Childhood health and diet in Roman London : the palaeodemographic, palaeopathological and isotopic evidence

Roman London has been extensively excavated, particularly over the last two decades, and substantial cemetery sites have been uncovered within and around the City. This study represents the first to undertake an integrated analysis of the palaeodemographic, palaeopathological, isotopic and funerary evidence from Roman London. This thesis seeks to identify social age transitions and the impact of these on the growing body. The specific aim of the research was to examine the perceptions of childhood and childcare in Roman London, utilising skeletal and funerary indicators of diet, health and social status. A total sample of 967 individuals formed the sample for analysis. The osteological data was obtained via the WORD database and the funerary data from archives and available publications. A further 120 number of individuals were sampled for carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of diet. The results yielded a number of interesting patterns regarding age, sex and social status, and the impact of these identities on diet and well-being. Overall, subadults at Roman London were found to have experienced higher rates of health stress than their adult counterparts, with subadults exhibiting higher prevalence rates for four of the six stress indicators examined. Causative stressors identified within the population included poor living conditions and population mobility. Within the subadult age group, differences in the level of health stress were experienced during the life course, with weaning and the introduction of occupationally related activities being pivotal points of increased health stress. An infant feeding pattern specific to Roman Britain and distinctive from Roman Italy was identified and further evidence for a special breastfeeding diet for women implicated. Distinctions in diets between males and females were identified, with females yielding greater variation, potentially linked to social stratification. Shifting dietary isotope signatures and indicators of health stress throughout the growth period were linked to social age transitions. Temporal trends within Roman London were also identified, with health in the early Roman period being worse than the preceding Iron Age period, but declining further during the later period of Roman occupation. In times of economic uncertainty the exploitation of local freshwater fish also occurred, but these supplemented the diet of children alone. No statistically significant difference between diet, health and social status were observed, which suggests that status was not simply a linear, ranked, hierarchy, but cross-cut by other aspects of the social personae such as gender and age. This integrated approach is the first of its kind to be undertaken in order to examine the Roman perceptions of childhood. It makes a number of important contributions regarding the experience of infancy and childhood in Roman Britain and the Roman life course more generally.
Date January 2014
CreatorsPowell, Lindsay Anne
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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