Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Prowse, Tracy


This thesis investigates infant and childhood health in the Roman period (1st to 4th centuries A.D.) cemetery at Vagnari using data on the prevalence and timing of linear enamel hypoplasias (LEH‘s). These results are examined in the context of historical and archaeological evidence for childhood health in ancient Rome. Analysis of the prevalence of LEH‘s in 48 individuals reveals a low frequency (64.6 %) of enamel hypoplasias in comparison with other Roman period skeletal samples, suggesting that political–economic or geographical variables may have contributed to the generally healthy conditions for subadults at Vagnari. Intrasite analysis indicates no significant difference between sexes or burial types with respect to the average number of teeth affected with hypoplasias and the average total number of defects, but a significant difference does exist between age groups (divided into 15 year intervals). The hypoplastic data indicate that males and females were experiencing similar levels of stress during infancy and childhood. These results are not consistent with the historical evidence, which suggests that male children were preferentially treated in ancient Roman society. Measurement of each hypoplastic defect indicates a peak age at occurrence of 2.75 years of age, which is interpreted as evidence of the end of the weaning process. Enamel hypoplasias occurred until around 6.5 years of age, suggesting that these Roman children experienced stress throughout childhood, possibly the result of childhood illness or malnutrition. The hypoplastic data are consistent with the historical evidence from the Roman period with respect to the general timetable of weaning. This research integrates biological, archaeological, and historical information about the lives of children to help investigate the physical well–being of a rural working class population in the ancient Roman Empire.




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