Baby Bones and Disappearing Bodies The Differential Preservation of Human Remains According to Age in a 17th to 19th Century Dutch Cemetery

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Baby Bones and Disappearing Bodies The Differential Preservation of Human Remains According to Age in a 17th to 19th Century Dutch Cemetery

Type: Bachelor thesis
Title: Baby Bones and Disappearing Bodies The Differential Preservation of Human Remains According to Age in a 17th to 19th Century Dutch Cemetery
Author: Erkelens, Christine
Issue Date: 2014-01-31
Keywords: Human Osteoarchaeology
Taphonomy
Subadult Bias
Preservation
Age Bias
Abstract: In human osteoarchaeology there has been discussion if there is a difference in preservation between adults and subadults and what this difference is caused by. To add to this discussion, this thesis examines material from the 17th to 19th century cemetery Middenbeemster. Individuals with ages from before birth to over 50 years were divided into seven age groups. The skeleton was examined for traces of damage caused by external factors on the bones, their completeness and weathering. The long bones were examined for all these factors as well. The results showed that subadults are less complete than adults. This difference is caused by fetal, perinate, and infant remains, that differ significantly from all other age groups in almost all variables. There is no difference in preservation between old adults, and the other age groups. Further it was found that the shaft of long bones is better preserved than the epiphyses. This effect exists in all age groups, but is much stronger in individuals under two years of age. These differences are caused by the intrinsic properties of the bone of subadults under the age of two and not by excavation damage or other external influences. Intrinsic bone properties that cause the remains of children under two to be less well preserved are the larger surface-to-volume ratio of small bones and their incomplete fusion. Also, the higher porosity and lower percentage of hydroxyapatite play a role. This research supports the view that subadults are not as well preserved as adults, and that especially the remains of children under two years are poorly preserved. Also, it seems that in the long bones of children under two, degradation processes have a stronger effect than in older individuals. However, contrary to previous research old adults were not significantly more poorly preserved than the other age groups. In order to improve the recovery of children under two years old, excavations where such remains can be expected should be conducted more carefully. Where entire skeletons have disappeared, extra use should be made of the archaeological evidence other than bones, that has been preserved.
Supervisor: Waters, A.
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archeologie (Bachelor)
Specialisation: Human Osteoarchaeology
ECTS Credits: 10
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/23176
 

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