Essays on Humans and Resources in a Long-Term Perspective

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2017-12-07
Language: English
Faculty: 6 Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Wirtschaftswissenschaften
Advisor: Baten, Jörg (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2017-10-25
DDC Classifikation: 330 - Economics
Keywords: Wirtschaftsgeschichte , Körpergröße , Lebensstandard , Frühmittelalter , Soziale Mobilität , Soziale Ungleichheit , Skelett , Osteoarthritis
Other Keywords:
Economic history
living standards
early medieval
social mobility
social inequality
skeletal data
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Human remains are at the centre of the study of living conditions, physical well-being, and their development in the very long run with heights estimated from long bones allowing insights into the biological standard of living that can be complemented with evidence from skeletal markers related to illness and physical activity. The first three studies focus on a key transition period in European history, the Merovingian era (5th - 8th century), when state-like structures re-emerged after the decline of the Roman Empire in the West. Social status, insofar as it was expressed through lavishly furnished burials and exquisite grave-goods, appears to have been accessible to some who were not privileged during childhood. This is shown to be a potential problem for assessments of inequality between groups of people identified by the grave-goods they were buried with. To apply the coefficient of variation of heights as a measure of inequality of biological living standards, the suitability of a range of height estimation formulae commonly used in the anthropological literature for estimations of this measure are assessed. Estimated height inequality in a sample of about 2,200 adult individuals, compiled for these studies from published excavation reports and unpublished anthropological records, was higher in the latter half of the study period. Male estimated heights are, to some extent, correlated with agro-ecological indicators of suitability for permanent pasture, similar to heights of 19th-century conscripts that have been documented as being on average taller in administrative districts with a higher number of cows per inhabitant. Another study documents degenerative joint disease as an indicator of biomechanical stress related to workload and activity patterns over the past two millennia, based on the Global History of Health Project's dataset that covers more than 15,000 individuals excavated from 103 burial sites. The analyses of osteoarthritis also demonstrate fluctuating intensity of physical activity over time and sexual division of labour.

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