What this skeleton told us: Evidence
An older woman and 158 cm tall (5 feet 2 inches). Tooth decay and plaque are present on many teeth, there is also an infected tooth root and gum disease on the lower jaw on both sides. Evidence of tooth loss during her lifetime and thinning of the dental (enamel defects, or hypoplasia) are also seen. The vertebrae of the lower back (lumbar region) are slightly compressed and very light in weight, which may indicate a disease like osteoporosis (loss of bone mass and subsequent fractures, especially in older women). It may also represent loss of bone mass during burial. The shaft of the bones of two fingers of the right hand are curved, and one finger is shortened perhaps as a result of injury (fracture).
Interpretation of the evidence
In Anglo-Saxon Britain, if a woman survived childhood, she could be expected to live into middle-age, provided she maintained good health and did not die during pregnancy or childbirth. This woman was of average height for the period, indicating that she was well-nourished and in good general health. However, we should remember that humans are very good at adapting to challenging times! In common with many of the people buried at the Bowl Hole, dental hygiene appears to have been poor for this woman as seen through the presence of plaque on her teeth. She had already lost teeth, would have probably had bad breath, and might have been in pain from tooth root and gum infections. Tooth decay indicates sugar in her diet. Her enamel hypoplasia illustrates that in childhood she had a deficient diet or disease. She may have had osteoporosis, and this could have also caused her pain, her bones would have been susceptible to breaking when injured. The damage to her right hand is perhaps the result of a fall.
Burial mound or hill.