||This study examines a subadult skeletal sample from the period of AD 1500-1850, excavated from the St. Catherine’s church cemetery in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The study’s main research question is whether signs of physiological stress are visible in the subadult remains in Eindhoven, and what these signs may tell us about the health of the population during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The following nonspecific stress markers are examined: dental enamel hypoplasia, Harris lines, cribra orbitalia, porotic hyperostosis, and the cortical index of the humerus and tibia. It is assessed whether and how stress factors relate to each other, as well as whether a difference exists between the two time periods examined (1600-1650 AD, and 1650-1850 AD). For all stress markers, it is also examined whether or not a difference in prevalence per age or per sex (based on ancient DNA results) is present.
None of the stress marker prevalences differed significantly between the sexes. There were also no significant differences between the two examined periods, which suggests sociocultural changes between these periods did not affect stress patterns. Infants are mostly unaffected by stress markers. For the Eindhoven population, the age within childhood at which signs of stress first seem to occur is around three to four years. However, it is possible that stress is best visible in this age group, and not necessarily that this age group is more susceptible to stress than others.
Overall, most stress markers show a moderate to high prevalence in Eindhoven. Only the prevalence of porotic hyperostosis is quite low. The fact that many individuals showed signs of cribra orbitalia but not of porotic hyperostosis, implies that they either have a different etiology, or that porotic hyperostosis develops in later stages than cribra orbitalia. The correlation between stress markers was different than expected; if all reflect physiological stress then one might expect the stress markers to be strongly correlated. However, only the presence of dental enamel hypoplasia and Harris lines were correlated, yet the lines themselves do not correlate, making it unlikely that they are indicative of the same stress event. The reason that stress markers are not correlated could be due to their different etiologies or different age-related propensities to form, or because one, or several, of the stress markers do not in fact reflect physiological stress. The cortical index pattern of individuals with Harris lines may imply that Harris line formation is in fact a normal part of bone growth.
The high prevalence of most stress markers suggests that the population suffered from stress caused by malnourishment or disease, and the presence of these stress markers also indicates survivorship. More research is needed to better understand the health of the population of Eindhoven. Additionally, this research has show that much is still unknown about the relationships between the different stress markers.