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Biodistance analysis of cemetery structure, social status, and postmarital residence in medieval Poland
AuthorSwenson, Victoria Marie
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The Medieval and Early Modern Period in Poland (AD 10th-18th c.) was characterized by a long-term sociopolitical transformation that drew culturally diverse immigrants across Europe and Asia. Historical, archaeological, and bioarchaeological evidence indicates an increase in craft specialization and interregional trade. Although extensive research has investigated these cultural changes, demographic and sociocultural bioarchaeological investigations are lacking. Based on this information, this study has two primary objectives: 1) investigate demographic changes that occurred through three regions of medieval Poland, and 2) investigate the social practices of a medieval community. Previous scholars have used cranial data to examine biological distance between pre-medieval, medieval, and post-medieval populations. However, the use of dental data and cranial data combined to investigate biocultural practices has been underutilized. Dental and cranial morphological and metric data were collected on adults of the Medieval Period site Stręgoborzyce 38, located in Małopolska Poland. These data were used to explore the biological diversity of Stręgoborzyce in comparison to other cemeteries in the regions of Mazovia and Silesia, the relatedness of Stręgoborzyce to other groups, the construction of kinship and social status as expressed through mortuary practices, and postmarital residence. Results indicate significant diversity at Stręgoborzyce in comparison to other medieval cemeteries. Biological distance analyses indicate Stręgoborzyce is phenotypically similar to contemporary populations in Mazovia and Małopolska; individuals from Stręgoborzyce are most similar to an Early Modern period cemetery in Silesia, indicating gene flow and contact between these three regions. There is limited biological patterning in mortuary practices with individuals in the same burial row. There is considerable homogeneity between locations and heterogeneity within locations. The differences suggest temporal variation. There is no evidence of correlation between indicators of social status (cultural) and biological similarity in the Stręgoborzyce 38 sample. These results indicate that the correlation between biological relatedness and social status was likely insignificant. Finally, the dental and skeletal morphological data suggest equal mobility. However, the skeletal metric data suggest slightly more male variability suggesting a matrilocal postmarital residence system at Stręgoborzyce 38. The results of this study contribute to the understanding of urbanization, institutionalization, and aggrandizement during the Medieval Period. This period is characterized by migration and associated gene flow. The lack of biologically patterned interment locations and biologically patterned grave goods indicate kinship and social status were complex. The findings of this dissertation have allowed for a discussion of social structure of a medieval cemetery. This research contributes to our understanding of how a medieval Polish population was organized.