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Demographic Patterns Distinctive of Epidemic Cemeteries in Archaeological Samples

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  • Authors: Dominique Castex1, Sacha Kacki2
  • Editors: Michel Drancourt3, Didier Raoult4
  • VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: UMR 5199 du CNRS, PACEA, Anthropologie des Populations Passées et Présentes, Pessac, France; 2: UMR 5199 du CNRS, PACEA, Anthropologie des Populations Passées et Présentes, Pessac, France; 3: Aix Marseille Université Faculté de Médecine, Marseille, France; 4: Aix Marseille Université Faculté de Médecine, Marseille, France
  • Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015
  • Received 23 January 2015 Accepted 25 January 2015 Published 01 July 2016
  • Dominique Castex, dominique.castex@u-bordeaux.fr
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  • Abstract:

    The analysis of biological parameters such as age and sex is particularly relevant to the interpretation of ancient skeletal assemblages related to abrupt mortality crises, and more particularly epidemics. In such a context, the mechanisms of selection within a population or part of a population differ according to the pathogen involved. They may also vary depending on the period and location in which the population lived. Here, we illustrate the specificity of plague mortality through the study of several European burial sites contemporary with the first and second plague pandemics. The paleodemographic patterns obtained for different plague outbreaks from the 6th to the 16th centuries reveal some constant features over time and space as well as some differences that suggest a possible evolution in the epidemiological characteristics of the disease.

  • Citation: Castex D, Kacki S. 2016. Demographic Patterns Distinctive of Epidemic Cemeteries in Archaeological Samples. Microbiol Spectrum 4(4):PoH-0015-2015. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015.

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References

1. Castex D, Kacki S, Réveillas H, Souquet-Leroy I, Sachau-Carcel G, Blaizot F, Blanchard P, Duday H. 2014. Revealing archaeological features linked to mortality increases. Anthropologie (Brno) 52:299–318.
2. Castex D. 2008. Identification and interpretation of historical cemeteries linked to epidemics, p 23–48. In Raoult D, Drancourt M (ed), Paleomicrobiology: Past Human Infections. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany. [CrossRef]
3. Godo C. 2010. Les inhumations intra-muros de Poitiers entre le IVe et le VIIe s. Biologie, gestes funéraires et essai d’interprétation. Master thesis. University of Nanterre, Paris, France
4. Stone R, Appleton-Fox N. 1996. A view from Hereford’s past: a report on the archaeological excavation in Hereford Cathedral Close in 1993. Logaston Press, Hereford, UK.
5. Kacki S, Castex D. 2014. La sépulture multiple de la basilique des Saints Martyrs Just et Pastor : bio-archéologie des restes humains. Quaderns d’Arqueologia i História de la Ciutat de Barcelona. 10:180–199.
6. Bizot B, Castex D, Reynaud P, Signoli M. 2005. La saison d’une peste (avril-septembre 1590). Le cimetière des Fédons à Lambesc. CNRS Éditions, Paris, France.
7. Kacki S. 2016. Influence de l’état sanitaire des populations anciennes sur la mortalité en temps de peste : contribution à la paléoépidémiologie. PhD thesis. University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.
8. Bruzek J, Schmitt A, Murail P. 2005. Identification biologique individuelle en paléoanthropologie. Détermination du sexe et estimation de l’âge au décès à partir du squelette, p 217–246. In Dutour O, Hublin JJ, Vandermeersch B (ed), Origine et évolution humaine. Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, Paris, France.
9. Moorrees CFA, Fanning EA, Hunt EE. 1963a. Age variation of formation stages for ten permanent teeth, J Dent Res 42:1490–1502. [CrossRef]
10. Moorrees CFA, Fanning EA, Hunt EE. 1963b. Formation and resorption of three deciduous teeth in children, Am J Phys Anthropol 21:205–213. [CrossRef]
11. Ubelaker DH. 1978. Human Skeletal Remains: Excavation, Analysis, Interpretation. Aldine, Chicago, IL.
12. Maresh MM. 1970. Measurements from roentgenograms, p 157–200. In McCammon RW (ed), Human Growth and Development. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, IL.
13. Scheuer L, Black S. 2000. Developmental Juvenile Osteology. Elsevier Academic Press, London, UK.
14. Coqueugniot H, Weaver TD, Houët F. 2010. Brief communication: a probabilistic approach to age estimation from infracranial sequences of maturation. Am J Phys Anthropol 142:655–664. [CrossRef]
15. Bruzek J. 2002. A method for visual determination of sex, using the human hip bone. Am J Phys Anthropol 117:157–168. [CrossRef]
16. Murail P, Bruzek J, Houët F, Cunha E. 2005. DSP: a tool for probabilistic sex diagnosis using worldwide variability in hip-bone measurements. Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris 17:167–176.
17. Murail P, Bruzek J, Braga J. 1999. A new approach to sexual diagnosis in past populations. Practical adjustments from Van Vark’s procedure. Int J Osteoarchaeol 9:39–53. [CrossRef]
18. Ledermann S. 1969. Nouvelles tables-types de mortalité. INED, PUF (Travaux et Documents, 53), Paris, France.
19. Masset C. 1975. La mortalité préhistorique, p 63–90. In Cahiers du Centre de Recherches Préhistoriques, Université de Paris I, 4. University of Paris, Paris, France.
20. Sellier P. 1996. La mise en évidence d’anomalies démographiques et leur interprétation: population, recrutement et pratiques funéraires du tumulus de Courtesoult, p 188–200. In Piningre JF (ed), Le tumulus de Courtesoult (Haute-Saône) et le Ier Age du Fer dans le Bassin Supérieur de la Saône. Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (DAF), Paris, France.
21. Kacki S, Castex D, with collaboration of Cabezuelo U, Donat R, Duchesne S, Gaillard A. 2012. Réflexions sur la variété des modalités funéraires en temps d’épidémie. L’exemple de la Peste noire en contextes urbain et rural. Archéologie Médiévale 42:1–21.
22. Bocquet J-P, Masset C. 1977. Estimateurs en paléodémographie. L’Homme 17:65–90. [CrossRef]
23. Margerison BJ, Knüsel CJ. 2002. Paleodemographic comparison of a catastrophic and an attritional death assemblage. Am J Phys Anthropol 119:134–148. [CrossRef]
24. Gowland RL, Chamberlain AT. 2005. Detecting plague: palaeodemographic characterisation of a catastrophic death assemblage. Antiquity 79:146–157.
25. Signoli M. 2006. Études anthropologiques des crises démographiques en contexte épidémique: aspects paléo- et biodémographique de la peste en Provence. Archaeopress (British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 1515), Oxford, UK.
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2016-07-01
2017-08-20

Abstract:

The analysis of biological parameters such as age and sex is particularly relevant to the interpretation of ancient skeletal assemblages related to abrupt mortality crises, and more particularly epidemics. In such a context, the mechanisms of selection within a population or part of a population differ according to the pathogen involved. They may also vary depending on the period and location in which the population lived. Here, we illustrate the specificity of plague mortality through the study of several European burial sites contemporary with the first and second plague pandemics. The paleodemographic patterns obtained for different plague outbreaks from the 6th to the 16th centuries reveal some constant features over time and space as well as some differences that suggest a possible evolution in the epidemiological characteristics of the disease.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1
FIGURE 1

Names and locations of the seven European burial sites used for the demographic analysis.

Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015
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Image of FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2

Examples of burials with simultaneous deposits (i.e., mass graves): Poitiers, Poitou-Charentes, France (a); Dreux, Eure-et-Loir, France (b); Dendermonde, Belgium (c).

Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015
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Image of FIGURE 3
FIGURE 3

Proportion of non-adults for each plague site.

Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015
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Image of FIGURE 4
FIGURE 4

Distribution of ages at death for immature subjects. Comparisons with theoretical values of Ledermann (1969): Justinian’s plague, 6th century (a); Black Death, 14th century (b); resurgences, 16th century (c).

Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015
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Image of FIGURE 5
FIGURE 5

Adult sex distribution for each plague site. Sex ratio of the Barcelona sample is unknown due to the low number of sexed individuals.

Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015
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Tables

Generic image for table
TABLE 1

Demographic data (number of individuals, age, sex, mortality quotients, juvenility index) for each plague site

Source: microbiolspec July 2016 vol. 4 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.PoH-0015-2015

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