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Frailty and the 14th-Century Mortality Crises in Southeastern Germany

Presentation author(s)

Sophia Francis ’21, Wilmette, Illinois

Majors: Anthropology; Russian
Minor: Museum Studies


A series of devastating events occurred in Europe during the 14th-century, starting with the Great Famine, followed by the Great Bovine Pestilence, and ending in the Black Death; collectively, these events are known as the 14th-Century Mortality Crises (14CMC). This study examines if the 14CMC served as selection events, resulting in reduced frailty in Southeastern German populations. This was assessed through an analysis of dental calculus (an indicator of frailty) to see if severity, and thus frailty, decreased following the 14CMC. The complete dentition for individuals from four archaeological sites (Altenerding, Oberammerthal, Ochsenfurt, and Speinshart) were analyzed through photographs and dental inventories and scored for dental calculus severity. Although not statistically significant (N=167, Χ², P > 0.05), there was a decrease in the prevalence of moderate-severe calculus, and age-based differences in calculus severity from the pre-14CMC sample to the post-14CMC. These results complement the results from the initial phase of this research carried out for the Pakula Biomedical Scholars in Summer 2020. More research, particularly larger samples, are needed to assess whether there was no change or a potential decrease in frailty following the 14CMC.


Leslie Williams

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