Compromised health: Examining growth and health in a late antique Roman infant and child cemetery

Sierra W. Malis, Jordan A. Wilson, Molly Kathleen Zuckerman, Anna J. Osterholtz, Julianne Paige, Shane Miller, Lujana Paraman, David Soren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Combining research from infant and child development, public health, anthropology, and history, this research examines the relationship between growth, growth disruption, and skeletal indicators of chronic and/or episodic physiological stress (stress) among juvenile individuals (n = 60) interred at the late antique infant and child cemetery at Poggio Gramignano (PG) (ca. 5th century CE), associated with a rural agricultural community. Materials and methods: Growth disruption—evidenced by decreased long bone length compared to dental age—and stress experience—evidenced by skeletal stress indicators—within these individuals are compared to those within juveniles from a comparative sample (n = 66) from two urban Roman-era cemeteries, Villa Rustica (VR) (0–250 CE) and Tragurium City Necropolis (TCN) (0–700 CE). Results: Results indicate that individuals from PG had significantly smaller femoral lengths-for-age than those from VR and TCN; however, the frequency of skeletal stress indicators was higher among juveniles from VR and TCN. Discussion: These differences in growth and stress experience are likely related to the different biosocial and ecological environments present in these two regions. For the community at PG, internal and external violent conflicts, as well as social, political, and economic turmoil, and subsistence shortages, endemic and epidemic infectious disease, nutritional deficiencies, and inherited or acquired anemia may have synergized to create chronically and/or episodically deleterious conditions for its juveniles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Biological Anthropology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Roman Italy
  • disease
  • growth disruption
  • physiological stress
  • rural
  • urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics
  • Archaeology
  • Palaeontology


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