Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Archaeology

Staff

Publication details for Dr Becky Gowland

Gowland, R. L. & Chamberlain, A.T. (2002). A Bayesian Approach to Ageing Perinatal Skeletal Material from Archaeological Sites: Implications for the Evidence for Infanticide in Roman-Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science 29(6): 677-685.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The skeletal remains of substantial numbers of perinatal human infants have been excavated from within a variety of archaeological contexts dating to the Romano-British period. It has been argued that the distribution of ages at death of these infants, which appears to exhibit a pronounced neonatal peak, provides evidence for infanticide. This study re-evaluates the osteological evidence for infanticide in Roman Britain by first identifying biases in traditional techniques for estimating the age of perinatal skeletons and then using a Bayesian procedure to reassess the ages at deaths of almost 400 infants from a number of Roman sites throughout England. We conclude that the apparent peak in neonatal mortality shown by earlier investigations is an artefact of regression-based age estimation. The distribution of ages at death in Romano-British infants is similar to a natural mortality profile.