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Reconstructing Relationships among Mortality, Status, and Gender at the Medieval Gilbertine Priory of St. Andrew, Fishergate, York

Citation

Sullivan, Amy (2004). Reconstructing Relationships among Mortality, Status, and Gender at the Medieval Gilbertine Priory of St. Andrew, Fishergate, York. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 124(4), 330-345.

Abstract

The varied relationships among status, gender, and mortality are complex, historically produced phenomena that shape people's lives and deaths in socially meaningful ways. Paleodemographic analysis coupled with acute sensitivity to site-specific context has the potential to move us toward a greater understanding of these experiences in the past. After considering the potential effects of migration and fertility on the age-at-death profiles of adult individuals interred at the Gilbertine Priory of St. Andrew, Fishergate, York (n = 200), it is asserted that these profiles primarily reveal expected and unexpected relationships among status, gender, and mortality in this Medieval context. Collectively, the long lives of religious-status males compared to other composite and gendered status groups suggest that they experienced a relatively comfortable existence despite periodic complaints of destitution. The postulated demographic advantage of high-status males did not materialize in the analysis, and a reevaluation of the skeletal evidence indicates that nearly 20% of these individuals died violently. Unexpectedly, moderate-status females shared a mortality profile similar to that of religious-status males and retained a demographic advantage over all other secular status groups. In contrast to the experiences of moderate-status females, low-status females had, on average, the shortest lives at St. Andrew's. This pattern is intimately linked to their restriction from crucial social and economic resources, and provides further evidence of their marginalization in York's wage-labor economy. Overall, these relationships suggest that traditional, highly stratified and gendered notions of Medieval status and mortality are not adequate for understanding the intricacies of everyday life and death at St. Andrew's.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.10271

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published

2004

Journal Title

American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Author(s)

Sullivan, Amy