Comparing field observations with laboratory determinations from Oldenzaal, The Netherlands

(ANTHRO.NL, Amersfoort, Amersfoort, The Netherlands)

Keywords: sex and age, determination, historical demography

Cemeteries around churches represent an important source from which developments in demography and health in historical times may be studied. The excavation of large cemeteries in and around churches in urban centres in the Netherlands is not always followed by osteoarchaeological laboratory studies of all human remains. Only small sections of the excavation are analysed and generally a small sample of circa 10 per cent of the human remains is selected for osteoarchaeological studies.
During the excavations of a cemetery around the Plechelmus church in Oldenzaal 2750 graves were documented. Since it was evident from the start that not all graves and human remains were going to be studied in detail, a protocol and a digital form were developed to record burial and skeletal data in the field. This database included variables related to age sex and stature of the skeletal remains.
In order to evaluate these data collected in the field, the available field data were analysed and when possible compared with data from laboratory studies comprising of standard physical anthropological examinations and aDNA analysis. The general impression is that collecting data on sex and age in the field is less reliable and not suitable for historical demographic studies. Possible causes for the differences in results will be discussed.

Relevance conference:
The paper seeks to validate a recent trend in Dutch archaeology that seeks to collect demographic data in the field without a full examination of excavated human remains.

Relevance session:
The paper evaluates ways to rapidly collect historical demographical information in the field by comparing sex and age determination in the field with laboratory determinations.