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Height and health in Roman and Post-Roman Gaul, a life course approach

Quade, Leslie; Gowland, Rebecca

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Leslie Quade


Objective: The present study explores growth and health in Roman (1st-3rd centuries CE) and Post-Roman (4th-7th centuries CE) Gaul, incorporating a life-course approach, to better understand the influence of Roman practices and lifestyles on health, and the impact of cultural change from the Roman to the Post-Roman period. Materials and Methods: The skeletal remains of 844 individuals were analyzed for non-specific signs of physiological stress, including growth disruption (diaphyseal and adult maximum femur length), dental enamel hypoplastic defects (DEH), cribra orbitalia (CO), and periosteal reaction of the tibiae (Tibia PR). Results: The Gallo-Roman sample demonstrated shorter femoral lengths, and higher rates of DEH and Tibia PR. Post-Roman groups demonstrated longer femoral lengths and higher rates of CO. Conclusions: Gallo-Roman individuals may have been more regularly exposed to infectious pathogens throughout childhood, inhibiting opportunities for catch-up growth, resulting in high rates of DEH and shorter femoral lengths (‘intermittent stress of low lethality’). This could be the result of overcrowding and insalubrious urban environments. Higher rates of CO in the Post-Roman samples may have been influenced by dietary changes between the periods. Significance: The intertwined and often synergistic relationships between early life environment, nutrition and settlement structure is highlighted, helping to further understandings of life experiences during the Roman and Post-Roman periods. Limitations: It was not possible to obtain sufficient data from northern regions during the Gallo-Roman period, limiting this analysis. Suggestions for Further Research: Further application of life course approaches can reveal subtle patterns in stress indicators.


Quade, L., & Gowland, R. (2021). Height and health in Roman and Post-Roman Gaul, a life course approach. International Journal of Paleopathology, 35, 49-60.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 1, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 14, 2021
Publication Date 2021-12
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 14, 2022
Journal International Journal of Paleopathology
Print ISSN 1879-9817
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Pages 49-60


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