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Keywords:

  • Early Middle Ages;
  • enthesopathies;
  • factor analysis;
  • grave goods;
  • musculoskeletal stress markers;
  • social status

ABSTRACT

Entheseal changes (EC) of skeletons are supposed to reflect the physical activity of our ancestors. Similarly, the elements of the burial rite (e.g. grave goods, burial depth) are presumed to be related to the social status of individuals. The aim of this study was to verify the existence of relationships between EC distribution and archaeological descriptors providing information on social status.

Fibrocartilaginous entheses of upper and lower limb bones of 115 individuals (aged 20–50 years) from the early medieval burial site Mikulčice – Klášteřisko were evaluated using Villotte's method (2006). Factor analysis (FA) was applied two times with two different combinations of descriptors: (i) FA-1 based on the archaeological characteristics; (ii) FA-2 based on the distribution of EC for males and females separately. The second step was important for the validation of results acquired from archaeological data.

It is possible to link several models of EC distribution with selected archaeological characteristics. (i) The relationship between EC and archaeological descriptors is more visible in males than females. (ii) Males with warrior equipment and deep graves very probably belonged to the higher social class and are characterised by the loading of the triceps brachii on the olecranon and of the gluteus medius on the femur. (iii) Males with shallower graves and objects of daily use more typically demonstrate an occurrence of EC at the insertion site of the wrist flexors or extensors. The clear links demonstrated in males were absent in females. There exists only a weak relationship between the descriptor jewellery and the incidence of EC at the insertion sites of the shoulder and certain insertion sites of the lower limbs (especially the hip rotators). This poorly significant relationship supports our previous hypothesis that females from Mikulčice performed the same activities regardless their socioeconomic status. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.