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Durham e-Theses
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An Isotopic Study of Environmental Influences on Early Anglo-Saxon Health and Nutrition

KENDALL, ELLEN,JEAN (2019) An Isotopic Study of Environmental Influences on Early Anglo-Saxon Health and Nutrition. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Early life has long been associated with high vulnerability to morbidity and mortality, risks which are reduced in infancy and early childhood through strategically high levels of parental or alloparental investment. More recently, theories have emerged addressing the manner in which poor health and nutritional stress during early life may impact upon the future health of those who survive this period. Thus, the significance of early life health and parental care extends far beyond the domain of childhood studies and may provide insight regarding population-level biocultural responses to environmental pressures throughout the lifecourse.

Skeletal and environmental data indicate that the 5-7th century cemeteries at Littleport and Edix Hill (Barrington A), Cambridgeshire represented similar communities with contrasting environments and states of population health. High prevalence of skeletal stress markers at Littleport suggests a community coping with unusual levels of biological stress, potentially a consequence of the endemic malaria historically known to be present in the Fens. In contrast, Edix Hill was an upland site which exhibited lower skeletal stress marker prevalence comparable to wider British data for the early medieval period. Early life stress levels and nutrition at Littleport (n=30) and Edix Hill (n=29) were investigated through carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses from incrementally-sampled deciduous and permanent molar dentine to identify variability in patterns relating to survivorship, sex, status, and disease. Meaningful variation in isotopic values within and between populations and sub-cohorts was observed. Isotopic data for Littleport demonstrated patterns of recurrent nutritional stress and health inequality between subpopulations during childhood, which were not mirrored at Edix Hill. These patterns are interpreted as consistent with the presence of malaria in the early medieval Fens. Characterisation of such inter-individual and inter-population variability should be a focus of future interdisciplinary archaeological childhood studies.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Early medieval, childhood diet, malaria, the Fens, breastfeeding
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Apr 2019 13:07

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