Evaluating human skeletal growth: An Anglo-Saxon example



Cross-sectional growth data were obtained from the skeletal remains of non-adults from the Raunds Anglo-Saxon site. Standard measurements of the diaphyseal lengths of the long bones of the upper and lower limbs and the maximum breadth of the ilium were recorded in order to construct skeletal growth profiles (SGP). In addition regression equations were used to estimate diaphyseal length from proximal and distal shaft widths, and epiphyseal breadth data for fragmentary remains. The skeletal measurements were then plotted against age estimates determined by the dental formation standards of Moorrees, Fanning and Hunt, and Anderson, Thompson and Popovich. The growth data were compared with sixth to seventh century German, ninth century Slavic and modern Caucasian data. With the exception of the ancient Slavic material, the Anglo-Saxon remains demonstrated the smallest rates of growth. Diaphyseal ageing curves derived from the Anglo-Saxon sample were tested for applicability on the non-adult cohorts of the Berinsfield and Exeter Anglo-Saxon/Early Medieval samples. Differences were observed between diaphyseal age as determined from the skeletal growth profiles for Raunds and calcification age assessed for individuals within the test samples. It is proposed that variation in long bone growth as well as dental age confounds consistent and reliable ageing of skeletal remains based on diaphyseal length. Assessment of changes in health and evaluation of methodological problems inherent to studies of skeletal growth from archaeological populations are discussed. Population comparisons for changes in general health are recommended over individual assessments.