Source/Archive record SYO1927 - Osteological Analysis The Former Female Prison

Title Osteological Analysis The Former Female Prison
Date/Year 2016


York Osteoarchaeology Ltd was commissioned by YAT to carry out the osteological analysis of three skeletons from the Former Female Prison, Castle Yard, York. The skeletons were excavated during archaeological evaluations situated immediately north of the Former Female Prison. The excavations took place during spring of 1998 and revealed evidence of activity dating to the 9th-11th centuries. A number of burials were identified within the earliest deposits, which may have formed part of the cemetery for a previously unknown pre-conquest church. Later deposits appear to have been truncated by the construction of the prison. Five supine extended and coffined skeletons were discovered orientated west to east, which were thought to be the remains of individuals interred at the prison. Osteological analysis of three of the well-preserved skeletons from the prison revealed that this group included one mature adult male and two young adult females. Both young adult females and the mature adult male were above average stature for the post-medieval period in Britain. The mature adult male exhibited joint degeneration and had suffered from osteoarthritis in both of his wrists and his left elbow. Schmorl’s nodes in the spine of the mature adult male and one of the young adult females, indicative of herniated discs, hinted at the potentially heavy physical work carried out by these individuals. The mature adult male had incurred several fractures, to his right elbow, nose and left hand, as well as damage to the blood supply of his elbows. Both females had fractured a toe and the mature male and one of the young females each had an ossified blood clot on their leg. One of the young adult females appeared to have suffered from a developmental anomaly in her foot, which may have resulted in a rigid and painful foot. Cribra orbitalia was observed in the orbits of the mature adult male and one of the young females, which may be an indication of poor childhood health. Grooves in the teeth of all three individuals also suggested that they suffered periods of stress in childhood. Receding inflammation of the lower limbs was observed in all three individuals. The majority of teeth were affected by deposits of calculus, and all three individuals had caries. Although the prevalence of caries was below the average for the period, the location of the cavities followed a pattern typical of high-sugar diets. Wear patterns on the mature adult male’s teeth suggested that he habitually smoked a pipe. One of the young adult females

Referenced Monuments (1)


Referenced Events (1)

  • Former Female Prison, Castle Yard (Ref: YORYM 1998.32)

Record last edited

Feb 7 2017 3:21PM


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