The Bioarchaeological Evidence for Elder Care in Roman Britain

Author(s): Rebecca Gowland

Year: 2015


The elderly are the most neglected demographic in archaeology. In today’s youth-obsessed society the elderly are consistently denigrated, particularly those perceived to be physically or mentally frail. This negative construction is partly a consequence of an unprecedented ageing population, often conceptualised as problematic and burdensome to society. A related and growing concern in contemporary populations is the physical abuse of the elderly, believed to be an escalating, demographically driven, phenomenon. The utility of skeletal evidence in the identification of violent trauma has been detailed in cases of child and intimate partner abuse, both modern and archaeological. Investigating the skeletal evidence for elder abuse is potentially more complex due to the confounding physiological effects of the ageing process, the lack of clinical research, and contemporary ageist attitudes. This paper synthesises the available medical and social research on elder abuse and evaluates the potential bioarchaeological evidence for elder mistreatment in Roman Britain. Archaeologists have the potential to provide a long-term perspective on the care and treatment of past elders and are positioned to make significant contributions to important contemporary debates regarding this global issue.

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Cite this Record

The Bioarchaeological Evidence for Elder Care in Roman Britain. Rebecca Gowland. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395732)


old age Trauma

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;