Source/Archive record SYO1910 - 12-18 Swinegate, 14 Little Stonegate & 18 Back Swinegate Osteological Analysis

Title 12-18 Swinegate, 14 Little Stonegate & 18 Back Swinegate Osteological Analysis
Date/Year 2015


York Osteoarchaeology Ltd was commissioned by the York Archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research Ltd to carry out the osteological analysis of seven skeletons from St Benet’s, Churchyard, York, North Yorkshire. The skeletons were excavated during archaeological evaluations at 12-18 Swinegate, 14 Little Stonegate and 18 Back Swinegate. The excavations took place between 1989 and 1990 and revealed a cemetery associated with St Benet’s Church. Radiocarbon dates from three of the analysed skeletons dated them to the 10th-11th centuries. The seven skeletons were a small sample of a larger cemetery, from which around 100 burials were excavated. Approximately half of the burials within the cemetery were placed in wooden coffins one of which consisted of a wooden plank placed over a juvenile burial with a nine-men’s-morris board carved into the top. Osteological analysis revealed that this group included three mature adult males, one young middle adult female, one older middle adult female, one older adolescent who was tentatively sexed as male and a juvenile. The excellent preservation of the skeletal remains meant it was possible to estimate the age, sex and stature of all of the adults. Generally the adults were below the average stature seen in early medieval Britain but fell within the ranges for the period. One of the mature adult males may have been of African or mixed ancestry and may have migrated to York or descended from those that did. All five adults exhibited some joint degeneration, which was more prolific in the mature adults and was probably age-related. Schmorl’s nodes in the spine indicative of herniated discs hinted at the potentially heavy physical work carried out by these individuals, probably from a young age, as these lesions were also noted in the older adolescent. Moderate levels of trauma were identified, some of which may have been the result of a physically strenuous life; two of the males had crush fractures in their spine. One of the mature adult males also had a well-healed fracture to his ulna, which may have occurred when protecting his face or body from a blow, and another had an ossified blood clot on his left shin. Minor developmental anomalies were common, but none appear to have been serious. Cribra orbitalia was observed in an adult male and female, and the juvenile, which may be an indication of the general poor health of the population. Grooves in the teeth of all five of the adults also revealed that they were affected by periods of stress in childhood. The older adolescent suffered from what may have been a fungal infection. The disease could not be positively diagnosed and would benefit from further research. An unusually high prevalence of calculus was observed in the dentitions from St Benet’s, which exceeded the average for the period, suggesting that their oral hygiene had not been adequate and diet may have been high in protein. The prevalence rate of caries in the St Benet population was lower than expected for the period, which may suggest that the diet was low in fruits, honey and processed carbohydrates.

Referenced Monuments (0)

Referenced Events (3)

  • 12-18 SWINEGATE (Ref: 1989-90.28)

Record last edited

Apr 26 2021 10:34AM


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