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Anthropol Anz. 2003 Jun;61(2):189-202.

Age structure and selected pathological aspects of a series of skeletons of late medieval Bernau (Brandenburg, Germany).

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Institut für Humanbiologie und Anthropologie der Freien Universität Berlin.


The age distribution of an excavation site from the late Middle Ages (beginning of the 13th century until 1598) in Bernau (Brandenburg, Germany) that contained 252 skeletons shows a mortality maximum at the age classes infants I and mature. The lowest mortality was calculated for the adult age class. 51.6% of the individuals died before the age of 20 years. The mortality rate of young women was higher than that of young men. The life expectancy of the total population was 25 years. Altogether, 87 adult skeletons were examined for degenerative joint diseases. Many of the examined joints showed indications of beginning osteoarthritis; the intensity of the disease was low or medium severe. The highest values were found for the hip joint, followed by the elbow and the knee. For all joints examined, women were less often and to a lesser extent affected than men, which was noticeable best in the upper extremity. Harris lines were found in 75% of the children, 4.7 per average individual. No such lines were found by the age of one year, the peak value of the frequency being recorded at the age between 2 and 3 years. This can be correlated to the weaning period. The comparison to a rural population yielded a higher load with Harris lines in the small village, which, however, was not correlated to a higher mortality. Altogether, the population of Bernau is characterised by good living conditions and a considerable chance of survival for the children, as well as by a labour system, dominated by crafts and farming.

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