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Adolescence, migration and health

In the 1500s, around 30,000 of London’s inhabitants were young migrant workers and apprentices that had previously been archaeologically invisible.

There is a consistent peak in 10-12 year olds in medieval urban cemeteries (c.1100-1500 AD), with high mortality, trauma and respiratory infections suggesting occupational hazards. Are these the apprentices? What was their health really like, how did they cope in such an alien environment, and how did they interact with the local population? Advances in forensic and archaeological science, and newly available large collections of adolescent skeletal remains from several key medieval sites, mean that these questions can now be explored.

This Week, we will look at the research carried out by Mary Lewis on medieval teenagers through the analysis of hundreds of their skeletons from archaeological collections. In the next Step, Mary explains how to analyse a skeleton in order to identify the age and biological sex of the individual.

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This article is from the free online course:

Archaeology: from Dig to Lab and Beyond

University of Reading