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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Judd, M. & Roberts, C.A. (1999). Fracture trauma in a Medieval British farming village. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 109(2): 229-243.

Author(s) from Durham


Farming is among the three most hazardous occupations in modern society and perhaps also held a similar position during the medieval period. The goal of this study was to determine if there is a significant difference in frequencies and patterns of longbone fracture trauma observed between rural and urban activity bases that distinguish farming as a particularly dangerous occupation during the medieval period. The longbones of 170 individuals excavated from Raunds, a rural medieval British site (10th-12th centuries AD) were examined for fractures and compared to data collected from four contemporary British medieval sites, one rural and three urban. The fracture frequency for the Raunds individuals (19.4%) was significantly different from the urban sites (4.7-5.5%). Female fractures were characterized by injury to the forearm, while the males were predisposed to diverse fracture locations. Clinical research provided a source of documented farm-related trauma from North America and Europe where the crops and animals raised, the manual chores performed, and the equipment used in traditional or small-scale farms have changed little in form or function since the medieval period. Nonmechanized causes of injury contribute to approximately 40% of all modern farm-related injuries and are attributed to falls from lofts and ladders, animal assaults and bites, and falls from moving vehicles. These hazardous situations were also present in the medieval period and may explain some of the fracture trauma from the rural sites. A high fracture frequency for both medieval males and females is significantly associated with farming subsistence when compared to craft-orientated urban dwellers.