Roman period fetal skeletons from the east cemetery (Kellis 2) of Kellis, Egypt
Abbreviated Journal Title
Int. J. Osteoarchaeol.
gestational age; skeletal ageing; regression; Bayes' theorem; Dakhleh; Oasis; burial practices; DAKHLEH-OASIS; ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES; GESTATIONAL-AGE; PALEODEMOGRAPHY; INFANTICIDE; BRITAIN; SAMPLES; Anthropology; Archaeology
Much can be learned about the religious ideology and mortuary patterns as well as the demographic and health profiles of a population from archaeological human fetal skeletons. Fetal skeletons are rare, however, largely due to poor preservation and recovery, mis-identification, or non-inclusion in general burial populations. We present an analysis of 82 fetal/perinatal skeletons recovered from Kellis 2, a Roman Period cemetery dated to the third and fourth centuries AD, located in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. Most of the fetal remains were individually wrapped in linen and all were buried among the general cemetery population in a supine, east-west orientation with the head facing to the west. Gestational age estimates are calculated from diaphysis lengths using published regression and Bayesian methods. The overall similarity between the fetal age distributions calculated from the regression and Bayesian methods suggests that the correlation between diaphysis length and gestational age is typically strong enough to avoid the 'regression' problem of having the age structure of reference samples adversely affecting the age distribution of target samples. The inherent bias of the regression methods, however, is primarily reflected in the gestational age categories between 36 and 42 weeks corresponding with the expected increase in growth variation during the late third trimester. The results suggest that the fetal age distribution at Kellis 2 does not differ from the natural expected mortality distribution. Therefore, practices such as infanticide can be ruled out as having a significant effect on the observed mortality distribution. Moreover, the Kellis 2 sample is well represented in each gestational age category, suggesting that all premature stillbirths and neonatal deaths received similar burial rites. The age distribution of the Kellis 2 fetal remains suggests that emerging Christian concepts, such as the 'soul' and the 'afterlife', were being applied to everyone including fetuses of all gestational ages. Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
International Journal of Osteoarchaeology
"Roman period fetal skeletons from the east cemetery (Kellis 2) of Kellis, Egypt" (2005). Faculty Bibliography 2000s. 5726.