5.2.1 Preservation

The internal burials were generally both better preserved and more complete than the external burials. Whilst four fifths of internal skeletons were in moderate or better condition, less than one half of external burials were as well preserved, and whilst almost half of internal burials were substantially complete only one tenth of external burials could be so considered. The relatively poor condition and incomplete nature of the external burials restricted the comparisons that could be made between the groups.

5.2.2 Number of Individuals

The SK sample was composed of 131 adults and 62 immatures whilst the minimum element count indicates 118 adults and 70 immatures (accepting 1980-1 and 1994 minimum element counts without recalculation). A minimum of 131 adults and 70 immatures was therefore represented, giving a total of 201 individuals.

5.2.3 Demography

Table 11: Age categories employed in this study
Foetal (FO) 0-7 months in utero
Perinatal (PE) Birth ± 2 months
Infant (IN) 2 months–2 years
Child (CH) 2–6 years
Young juvenile (YJ) 6–12 years
Old juvenile (OJ) 12–18 years
Subadult (SA) 18–25 years
Young adult (YA) No/slight degenerative change (20-30 years)
Early middle aged (EMA) Slight/moderate degenerative change (30-40 years)
Middle age (MA) Moderate degenerative change (40-50 years)
Late middle age (LMA) Moderate/severe degenerative change (50-60 years)
Old age (OA) Severe degenerative change (60+ years)
Adult (AD) Dental/skeletal development complete. Insufficient information for closer assessment.
Immature (IM) Dental/skeletal development incomplete. Insufficient information for closer assessment.

Standard criteria were used to determine age at death of immature skeletons (Table 12) (Ferembach et al. 1980). When dental and/or epiphyseal evidence was unavailable, long bone length was employed, using standards developed on the dentally aged material from both phases of the excavation. Each skeleton was then assigned to a broad age category to facilitate analysis and comparison with other groups. Adult material is much more difficult to 'age' accurately than immature material. Adult material was consequently assigned to broad age categories based on the available evidence which included degenerative change, dental attrition (Brothwell 1981), cranial suture closure (Meindl and Lovejoy 1985) and age-related changes at the costal end of the ribs (Iscan et al. 1984; Iscan et al. 1985). The category of 'subadult' was included with adults in the following analyses as this group had probably attained adult social and biological status.

One third (62/193) of the SK sample did not reach adulthood (Table 13), and of these almost two thirds (39 individuals) died before six years of age.

The period around birth is an especially risky one, and with infant mortality rates (the number of deaths of those under one year per 1000 live births) in the region of 170/1000 being common in the developing world today (UNICEF 1993), we could expect as many as 14 or more infants below one year of age in a group of this size. It is therefore suggested that the youngest age groups are severely under-represented, probably for a number of reasons including different burial practices/areas for the youngest children and differential survival of small, fragile bones (Rodwell 1989), both features that are illustrated in Aberdeen. Because it is not possible to determine the degree of sample bias, detailed analysis of mortality patterns amongst the immature sample (Table 14) was not carried out, although a combination of skeletal and ethnographic evidence suggests that young childhood, especially before six years of age, was an especially risky time. It seems that once adulthood was reached, most individuals survived to middle age although few reached old age.

Whilst adults of both sexes were fairly evenly dispersed throughout the burial areas, there was distinct clustering of the younger age groups with at least nine individuals aged between birth and six years aligned against the footings of the north wall and two against the footing of the south wall. Older immatures were buried towards the centre of the church.

5.2.4 Sex

The sex of adult skeletons was assessed using standard morphological criteria (e.g. Feremback et al. 1980; Krogman and Iscan 1986). No attempt was made to assign sex to juvenile material. The findings from the most confidently sexed individuals ('male'; 'female') were combined with those from the less confidently sexed material ('probable male'; 'probable female') in the analyses. The ratio of females to males was 1:1.3 (Table 15) (46 females/possible females; 60 males/possible males), a difference that was not statistically significant. Most adults died during middle age with few surviving to old age, with males living slightly longer than females.


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