Sex differences in pre- vs. post-Black Death trends in developmental stress markers

Author(s): Sharon DeWitte

Year: 2017


Previous research revealed trends in periosteal new bone formation in medieval London that are consistent with improvements in health following the Black Death (c. 1347-1351). However, periosteal lesions can occur in response to a wide variety of factors at any age, so it remains unclear how the epidemic affected patterns of physiological stress specifically among subadults. To further our understanding of changes in physiological stress before and after the Black Death, this study examines sex-based variation in temporal trends in two developmental stress markers: linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) and short tibia length (a proxy for stature). The samples (n = 879) are from medieval London cemeteries and dated to an Early Pre-Black Death (1000-1200 AD), Late Pre-Black Death (1200-1250 AD), or Post-Black Death (1350-1540 AD) period. The results of Chi-square and t-tests indicate that before the Black Death, males experienced an increase in LEH frequency and a decline in stature, but these did not change among females. The results also indicate declines in LEH and increases in stature for males but decreases in stature for females after the epidemic. These patterns might reflect sex differences in physiological buffering during childhood or unequal access to resources after the Black Death.

Cite this Record

Sex differences in pre- vs. post-Black Death trends in developmental stress markers. Sharon DeWitte. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430541)

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Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15146