Source/Archive record SYO1921 - Osteological Analysis Dixon Lane and George Street

Title Osteological Analysis Dixon Lane and George Street
Date/Year 2016


York Osteoarchaeology Ltd was commissioned by the York Archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research Ltd to carry out the osteological analysis of four skeletons from St Stephen’s church, York, North Yorkshire. The skeletons were excavated during archaeological evaluations at the junction of Dixon Lane and George Street during the winter of 2005 to 2006. The four skeletons were a small sample of a larger cemetery, from which over 100 burials were excavated. Approximately half of the burials within the cemetery were thought to have been placed in wooden coffins and seven contained cobblestones placed around the head, elbows or feet. A small subset of the burials was believed to date to the pre-conquest era, while the majority were thought to have been associated with the churchyard of St Stephen’s Church. Osteological analysis revealed that the well-preserved group reported upon here included two mature adults, one of whom was male and the other female, as well as an adolescent and an older juvenile. The male was slightly above and the female below the average stature for early medieval Britain. The mature adult female and adolescent were probably of African or mixed ancestry based on their cranial morphology. Both adults exhibited joint degeneration, which was more prevalent and severe in the female. Schmorl’s nodes in the spine indicative of herniated discs were noted in the adults and adolescent, possibly suggesting a physically active lifestyle. Trauma was prevalent, including a crush fracture to the female adult’s lower spine, an avulsion fracture to the male adult’s palm and an ossified blood clot on the left lower leg of the adolescent. Notably, the adult male and older juvenile exhibited healed depression fractures to their skulls. These may have been incurred through violent encounters or simple accidents. Inflammatory lesions were noted on the legs of two individuals and the internal skull surface of two skeletons. Evidence for chronic sinusitis, likely caused by poor dental health, was noted in both adults. A few minor developmental anomalies were observed, but none appear to have been serious. Cribra orbitalia was observed in the orbits of both adults, which may be an indication of the general poor childhood health of the population. Grooves in the teeth of all four individuals also revealed that they were affected by periods of stress in childhood. The older adolescent had what may have been cysts on the left femur, however, it was not possible to confirm the diagnosis and further research would be beneficial, while the mature adult female had two benign tumours on her skull, as well as hormone-related changes to the internal cranium. The frequency of dental plaque concretions, caries and abscesses observed in the dentitions from St Stephen’s exceeded the average for the period, suggesting that oral hygiene had not been adequate.

Referenced Monuments (1)

  • Pre and post-Conquest cemetery (Monument)

Referenced Events (1)

  • Dixon's Land and George St (Ref: YORYM: 2005.3203)

Record last edited

Mar 16 2021 4:04PM


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