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Stressing out in medieval Denmark: An investigation of dental enamel defects and age at death in two medieval Danish cemeteries

Stressing out in medieval Denmark: An investigation of dental enamel defects and age at death in two medieval Danish cemeteries

By Julia A. Gamble, Jesper L. Boldsen, Robert D. Hoppa

International Journal of Paleopathology, Volume 17, 2017

Abstract: The influence of early life stress on later life experiences has become a major focus of research in medicine and more recently in bioarchaeology. Dental enamel, which preserves a record of childhood stress events, represents an important resource for this investigation when paired with the information from adult skeletal remains, such as age at death.

The purpose of this research was to use a life history approach to the exploration of sex differences in the relationship between childhood stress and adult longevity by examining accentuated striae of Retzius (AS). A medieval Danish sample (n = 70) drawn from the rural cemetery of Sejet and the urban cemetery of Ole Wormsgade was considered for AS and age at death.


The results suggest sex differences in survivorship, with more stress being associated with reduced survivorship in males and increased survivorship in females. A consideration of AS formation time also suggests a difference in the impact of developmental timing between males and females. These results are interpreted in terms of differential frailty and selective mortality, drawing in both biomedical and cultural perspectives.

Click here to read this article from Science Direct

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