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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Rebecca Gowland

Gowland, R. L. & Redfern, R. C. (2010). Childhood health in the Roman World: perspectives from the centre and margin of the Empire. Childhood in the Past: An International Journal 3(1): 15-42.

Author(s) from Durham


Very few studies to date have presented contextualised interpretations of bioarchaeological
evidence from Roman urban environments. This paper compares and
contrasts the osteological data for childhood health from two urban centres, one at
the centre and the other at the margins of the Roman Empire – Rome and London.
We synthesise recently published and newly recorded data on childhood indicators
of physiological stress (e.g. cribra orbitalia and enamel hypoplasias) from both sites.
Contrary to expectations, we find that the prevalence of these stress indicators is
comparable between sites. In order to contextualise these findings we compare the
results to published data from other sites of the same period (from both rural and
urban locales) within the respective countries. We find that the data from London
is anomalous for Roman Britain, while that from Rome is similar to findings from
contemporaneous Italian sites. We interpret these findings in terms of child-rearing
practices, the local living environment and high levels of migration into Roman London
from Mediterranean regions.