The biological consequences of urbanization in medieval Poland

The biological consequences of urbanization in medieval Poland

By Tracy Kay Betsinger

PhD Dissertation, Ohio State University, 2007

Abstract: This dissertation tests the hypothesis that urbanization in a medieval Polish population caused the general quality of life to decline. Furthermore, it will test the hypothesis that these consequences of urbanization occurred gradually and were not severe. These hypotheses are tested by documentation of stress indicators, specific infectious diseases, dietary indicators, and traumatic injuries. As a corollary, I document workload as an indicator of lifestyle.

To test these hypotheses, three medieval Polish skeletal samples are used, representing the three temporal periods of interest: pre-urbanization (A.D. 950-1025), early urbanization (A.D. 1025-1100), and late urbanization (A.D. 1100-1250). The prevalence of stress indicators (porotic hyperostosis, cribra orbitalia, enamel hypoplasias, and periostitis) and specific infectious diseases (leprosy, treponematosis, and tuberculosis) are compared among the three temporal groups to determine whether health declined. In addition, the average adult stature is temporally compared, as stature reflects overall health.

The prevalence, pattern and severity of DJD are also compared among the three temporal groups in order to identify changes in activity patterns. Temporal comparisons of prevalence, severity, and pattern of dental pathological conditions (dental caries, antemortem tooth loss, periapical lesions, dental calculus, and dental wear) are used to assess changes in diet. Finally, the prevalence of traumatic injuries are compared among the three temporal groups to determine whether interpersonal violence increased.

The results of this study indicate that health declined mildly, during the more than 200 years of urbanization represented by this sample. In addition, there is a change in activity patterns and diet. However, there is no change in rates of interpersonal violence. These results have important implications for urbanization studies, as they emphasize the need to take rate of change and severity into consideration when assessing the consequences of urbanization.

Click here to read this thesis from OhioLink

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