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Keywords:

  • preadults;
  • stress indicators;
  • growth;
  • BMC;
  • leprosy;
  • Later Medieval Denmark

Abstract

This study compares associations between demographic profiles, long bone lengths, bone mineral content, and frequencies of stress indicators in the preadult populations of two medieval skeletal assemblages from Denmark. One is from a leprosarium, and thus probably represents a disadvantaged group (Næstved). The other comes from a normal, and in comparison rather privileged, medieval community (Æbelholt). Previous studies of the adult population indicated differences between the two skeletal collections with regard to mortality, dental size, and metabolic and specific infectious disease. The two samples were analyzed against the view known as the “osteological paradox” (Wood et al. [1992] Curr. Anthropol. 33:343–370), according to which skeletons displaying pathological modification are likely to represent the healthier individuals of a population, whereas those without lesions would have died without acquiring modifications as a result of a depressed immune response. Results reveal that older age groups among the preadults from Næstved are shorter and have less bone mineral content than their peers from Æbelholt. On average, the Næstved children have a higher prevalence of stress indicators, and in some cases display skeletal signs of leprosy. This is likely a result of the combination of compromised health and social disadvantage, thus supporting a more traditional interpretation. The study provides insights into the health of children from two different biocultural settings of medieval Danish society and illustrates the importance of comparing samples of single age groups. Am J Phys Anthropol 127:, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.