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|Visiting the Past: Finding and Understanding Britain's Archaeology
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Respond to: Fracture treatment in Iron Age and Roman Britain - \"... what have the Romans ever done for us?\"
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from South Central Indiana, US
| New Message Posted!2013-01-22 23:51  |
Using burial sites to gauge the effect of Roman conquest on Iron Age Britons
Archaeological investigations show a break in the continuity of Iron Age trends with Roman conquest, especially apparent in burial and mortuary patterns. One important facet of understanding what affect ‘Romanization’ had on the Britons is looking at changes in health patterns, at both a national and regional levels, comparing the effects on different classes and age groups of society. Two studies done by Redfern and DeWitte (2011a, 2011b) and Redfern, Millard and Hamlin (2012) assess the health in the Iron Age and Roman periods of Dorset, England in order to understand how changes connected with conquest affected health. Previous studies by Redfern et al. (2010) on these pre- and post-conquest communities in Dorset showed that there was; increased consumption of marine resources; increased prevalence of dental disease; infectious and metabolic diseases; decreased evidence for trauma; decline in subadult growth; and average male stature did not increase. These more recent studies look closer into demography and mortality, as well as class and age differences in health.
Cultural change and Romanization
‘Romanization’, a term which no longer aptly describes Roman conquest and culture change, was a diverse and dynamic process. Early notions on the process saw it as a one sided conquest whereby native communities became civilized by Romans. Now the process is seen as multi-dimensional, affecting change in both native and Roman communities, leading to a complete change in cultural patterns in the core and periphery (Webster 2001). The term ‘Romanization’ continues to be used, but with the understanding that the process was more nuanced and variable than previously thought.
Prior to Roman conquest, Dorset was occupied by various Iron Age tribal communities. There was an extensive trade confederacy between these groups, and each was centred around a hillfort surrounded by a landscape of farmstead and dispersed settlement. They economy was based on mixed agriculture and a focus on land fauna and animal husbandry. There is some degree of burial variation, but primarily they practised inhumation in pit burials with few grave goods. Dorset was conquered in 43 CE and a Roman army was stationed there in 65 CE. With conquest came the creation of Dorchester (Durononvaria), a Roman style town with wooden houses, straight roads, and bathhouses. Agriculture was improved and intensified, and the population began to incorporate marine resources into the diet. Inhumation continued, although now cemeteries were placed outside of town boundaries (in accordance with Roman law). Burials began to more closely reflect status , with variation in coffin types and increased use of grave goods, although this change is more pronounced in urban rather than rural communities.
Redfern and DeWitte (2011a) assessed 518 inhumed individuals; 203 date from the middle and late Iron Age and 315 from the Romano-British period. Using this population sample they assessed changes in mortality based on age and sex, as well as general changes in health. What they found in both samples was the highest risk of mortality was in infants and older adults, although there is an increased risk of mortality for younger adults in the Romano-British sample. Comparison of ‘risk of death’ by sex showed that there was an even risk for males and females during the Iron Age. In the Romano-British period, the risk of mortality for males was much higher than for females. This suggests overall that Romanization had deleterious effects on health, especially for males and those who suffered stress related pathologies.
Class and health
In their second study, Redfern and DeWitte assess the same population in order to determine whether class and status affects one’s mortality. In their article they argued that there is a correlation between coffin type and status. They assessed 291 individuals from a range of ages and sexes; individuals were ranked based on their coffin and burial type, lowest to highest status. Overall, they found that there was no clear relationship between health, mortality and status based on coffin type. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a difference in health by class, but more speaks to the fact that burial container may not directly relate to status.
Finally, in the most recent article, Redfern, Millard and Hamlin (2012) look at the patterns of health and diet in the sub-adult population.
Sub-adults were more likely to receive a formal burial, but less likely to receive grave goods in the Romano-British period. The sample included 72 Iron Age and 128 Romano-British sub-adults between pre-term and 19 years old. While dental disease remained relatively stable, there was an increase in the Romano-British period of metabolic diseases (like rickets and scurvy). The overall health changes in sub-adults is similar to adults, Romanization led to worsened health and increased risk of mortality.
Understanding the process of Romanization
Studies like these are important because they combine mortuary practices and skeletal analysis with the broader narratives of history. The goal of archaeology is not to reconstruct the minute practices of individual sites, but rather to more broadly understand human society, change and development over time.
Thanks to coldrum for the link. For more, see http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/03/2012/using-burial-sites-to-gauge-the-effect-of-roman-conquest-on-iron-age-britons.
| New Message Posted!2013-01-12 20:39  |
The Past Horizons link gives Error 404 "The article no longer exists."
[Fixed - thanks - AB]
[ This message was edited by: Andy B on 2013-01-12 20:47 ]
from South Central Indiana, US
| New Message Posted!2013-01-11 18:23  |
There have long been debates over the changes that occurred to the general health of a population with the occupation or Romanisation of an area. Examination of skeletal remains have shown both improvement and decline in overall health.
Katy Meyers has examined a recent study by Redfern (2010) which took a different approach and looked at the cultural change in medical beliefs and practices through physical remains.
Examination was carried out for ante mortem fractures and surgical practice of 270 adults and 190 sub adults from 21 cemeteries around the Dorset region.
The goal was to assess changes in treatment from the Iron Age (5th c. BCE to 1st c. CE) to the Romano-British period (1st c. to the end of the 4th c. CE).
The assumption had always been that the Romans brought some semblance of scientific progress to barbarian cultures, but analysis is suggesting this may not be entirely true.
In order to assess healthcare and changes in both time periods, Redfern examined 64 males, 51 females and 80 sub adults from the Iron Age and 96 males, 59 females, and 110 sub adults from the Romano-British period.
In this study, she recorded fractures based on location, type of fracture, healing and whether it resulted in deformity or associated degenerative problems like arthritis. Surgical treatment was identified based on the type of trauma, presence of cut-marks, and presence of surgical artefacts.
The results tell a new story about care and medicine in Britain both pre and post Roman occupation.
Read full article: Break a Leg! Fracture Treatment in Iron Age and Roman Britain
Redfern, Rebecca (2010). A regional examination of surgery and fracture treatment in Iron Age and Roman Britain International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 25 (4)
Katy Meyers is an anthropology PhD student who specializes in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology at Michigan State University. She also writes regularly on bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology news at her site http://www.bonesdontlie.com
Thanks to coldrum for the link. For more, see http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/12/2012/fracture-treatment-in-iron-age-and-roman-britain
[ This message was edited by: Andy B on 2013-01-12 20:45 ]