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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2011 Feb;144(2):269-85. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21400. Epub 2010 Oct 5.

A new approach to the study of Romanization in Britain: a regional perspective of cultural change in late iron age and roman dorset using the siler and gompertz-makeham models of mortality.

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  • 1Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, London, UK. rredfern@museumoflondon.org.uk


This is the first study of health in the Roman Empire to use the Siler and Gompertz-Makeham models of mortality to investigate the health consequences of the 43 AD conquest of Britain. The study examined late Iron Age and Romano-British populations (N = 518) from Dorset, England, which is the only region of Britain to display continuity in inhumation burial practice and cemetery use throughout the two periods. Skeletal evidence for frailty was assessed using cribra orbitalia, porotic hyperostosis, periosteal lesions, enamel hypoplasia, dental caries, tuberculosis, and rickets. These health variables were chosen for analysis because they are reliable indicators of general health for diachronic comparison (Steckel and Rose: The backbone of history: health and nutrition in the western hemisphere (2002)) and are associated with the introduction of urbanism in Britain during the Roman period (Redfern: J Rom Archaeol Supp Series 64 (2007) 171-194; Redfern: Britannia 39 (2008a) 161-191; Roberts and Cox: Health and disease in Britain: from prehistory to the present day (2003)). The results show that levels of frailty and mortality were lower in the late Iron Age period, and no sex differences in mortality was present. However, post-conquest, mortality risk increased for children and the elderly, and particularly for men. The latter finding challenges received wisdom concerning the benefits of incorporation into the Empire and the higher status of the male body in the Roman world. Therefore, we conclude that the consequences of urbanism, changes in diet, and increased population heterogeneity negatively impacted health, to the extent that the enhanced cultural buffering of men did not outweigh underlying sex differences in biology that advantage women.

2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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