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Keywords:

  • pregnancy;
  • dystocia;
  • death during childbirth;
  • palaeopathology;
  • Neolithic;
  • Vietnam

ABSTRACT

Despite ostensibly elevated rates of young female mortality in the past, believed to be associated with the risks of pregnancy and child birth, surprisingly few cases of pregnant female burials are reported in the bioarchaeological literature. This paper describes and discusses the case of a young female who died and was interred with an unborn full-term breech foetus at the Neolithic site of An Son, southern Vietnam c. 2100–1050BCE. Her exceptionally poor oral health, evidence for cribra orbitalia, linear enamel hypoplasia, small stature and compromised gynaecological competence, contributes to a differential diagnosis that explores a range of additional complications that may have contributed to the death of both mother and unborn child. An examination and appreciation of this case contribute to our knowledge of the reproductive age and health of young females in Neolithic Southern Vietnam and the challenges they faced during pregnancy and childbirth. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.