Graduation Date

Spring 2018

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Applied Anthropology

Committee Chair Name

Ariel Gruenthal-Rankin

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Marissa Ramsier

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Marisol Cortes-Rincon

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



Health is routinely studied in living populations using quantifiable measurements such as allostatic load and frailty. In recent years, particularly since the introduction of the osteological paradox, there has been increased interest among bioarchaeologists in how these concepts can be applied to the study of health in past populations. Although health is not directly observable in skeletal remains, assessment of frailty can be useful for understanding the implications of long-term exposures to stress on well-being and mortality. This study builds upon past research in this area by incorporating commonly observed indicators of physiological stress, such as dental disease and osteoarthritis, into a cumulative index that can be used to assess frailty in archaeological populations. A sample of 37 individuals (males, n=15; females, n=16; indet., n=6) between the ages of approximately 14 and 65 years from the Late Medieval site of Bezławki in northeastern Poland, were examined for evidence of 13 biomarkers of physiological stress related to nutritional deficiencies, growth disruption, infection, and trauma. These categories were chosen based on their potential to affect the lifestyles of individuals in the past and present. Following examination, each individual was assigned a frailty score, which was then compared across groups within the population. While results indicate no statistically significant variation in frailty between age and sex cohorts, biomarker prevalence reflects a population experiencing complex environmental change and social reform following a long period of colonization and conversion. Ongoing research will explore the relationship between frailty and lifestyle in Medieval Prussia, an area which currently has sparse historical records.

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