Evaluation of the obstetric significance of some pelvic characters in an 18th century british sample of known parity status


  • Dr. Margaret Cox,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Palaeontology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, England
    • Grey Gables, Summerfield Road, Beacon Hill, Bath, Avon, BA1 5QB, England
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  • Andrew Scott

    1. Department of Applied Statistics, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 2AN, England
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The excavations at Christ Church, Spitalfields (1984–86) produced a sample of 968 human skeletons which were interred between 1729 and 1859. Of these, 387 were recovered in association with coffin plates stating name, age at death, and date of death.

There are 138 adult females in the named sample and the obstetric histories of 94 have been reconstructed from historical documentation. Such variables as birth spacing, number of children, and age at first and last births are known for the majority of this sample. Any individual about whose history there is any doubt has been excluded from the analysis.

A middle-class group, they were largely of high nutritional status and, by the standards of the day, lived in sanitary and comfortable conditions. Both males and females have a mean age at death of 56 years.

The presence or absence, the typology, the severity, the width and the length of the preauricular sulcus, the presence or absence and the number of pits on the dorsal aspect of the pubic body, sulci along the anterior sacrum adjacent to the auricular facet, and the extension of the pubic tubercle were evaluated in relation to the obstetric histories of these females.

Statistical analysis has demonstrated a relationship between the presence of pubic tubercle extension and parity status and between the degree of extension and the number of children borne (P < .02).

Statistically there is no significant relationship (P > .05) between either the preauricular sulcus or pubic pitting and parity status. Sacral scarring is significantly associated (P < .05) with parity status, but as it was evident in only eight females it has little practical application. Sample sizes are small, and it must be considered that statistical evaluation of larger samples might detect associations between variables not demonstrated here. There is no significant relationship between any of the cortical variants under consideration and age at death. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.