Stress Chronologies and Periodicities in a Mass Burial, Charterhouse Warren Farm Shaft, United Kingdom: Microstructural Reconstruction of Environmental Interactions at the Precipice of Violent Death



Smith, Emily M

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This study examines the chronology and periodicity of stress of the Charterhouse Warren Farm Shaft (CWFS) individuals, dated to the Early Bronze Age (EBA, ca. 2200- 2000 cal BC), Mendip Somerset, England. Previous studies suggested that these individuals were victims of violent deaths, defleshing, and conceivably cannibalism before internment within a deep natural fissure instead of the normative practice of burial under an EBA round barrow. Histological methods were used to identify the presence and estimate the chronology of accentuated lines (AL) in 10 permanent first, second, and third molars and canines sampled from five individuals (n = 5). Accentuated lines were identified as large, dark striae of Retzius that were visible over 75 percent of the dental plane between the dentin-enamel-junction and tooth surface. Chronology and periodicity of the accentuated line was estimated based along enamel prism distance from the neonatal line and other known chronologies. Defect timing ranged between 53-3,292 days (0.1-9.0 years). Chronologies expressed an interquartile range of 245-1,339 days (0.7-3.7 years) and a median of 999 days (2.7 years). Periodicity resulted in an interquartile range of 52-145 days (1.7-4.8 months) and an average of 100 days (3.3 months). AL were present in infancy, prior to weaning off breastmilk, and into the juvenile period, therefore metabolic stress was experienced throughout development. The introduction of complementary foods correlated to metabolic stress in a single individual, which indicates complementary foods failed to buffer from environmental stressors. Cyclical trends in AL depicted possible environmental impacts of seasonal shortages. Systemic seasonal impacts possibly impacted resource procurement and provide context to the subsequent violent deaths of the CWFS individuals.



Early Bronze Age Britain, Bioarchaeology, Histology, Cannibalism