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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Janet Montgomery

Armit, Ian, Shapland, Fiona, Montgomery, Janet & Beaumont, Julia (2015). Difference in Death? A Lost Neolithic Inhumation Cemetery with Britain’s Earliest Case of Rickets, at Balevullin, Western Scotland. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 81: 199-214.

Author(s) from Durham


Recent radiocarbon dating of a skeleton from Balevullin, Tiree, excavated in the early twentieth century, demonstrates that it dates to the Neolithic period, rather than the Iron Age as originally expected. Osteological examination suggests that the individual was a young adult woman, exhibiting osteological deformities consistent with vitamin D deficiency, most likely deriving from childhood rickets; an exceptionally early identification of the disease in the UK with potentially significant social implications. Isotopic analysis supports the osteological evidence for physiological stress in childhood and further suggests that the woman was most probably local to the islands. Analysis of the surviving written archive reveals that the surviving skeleton was one of several originally recovered from the site, making Balevullin an exceptionally rare example of a British Neolithic inhumation cemetery.