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Skeletal variation as a possible reflection of relatedness within three Medieval British populations

Burrell, CL (2018) Skeletal variation as a possible reflection of relatedness within three Medieval British populations. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Nonmetric traits (NMTs) are often used by osteoarchaeologists in the study of human variation. Some NMTs are affected by environmental factors whereas others are genetic in origin. Such genetic variants have long been used to support the hypotheses on the history and divergence of human populations suggesting that some population groups can be genetically distinguished. However, when genetic NMTs occur in higher than expected frequency these can be interpreted as possible indicators of relatedness. This method is applied to a sample of 977 individuals from the Medieval Poulton Chapel, St. Owen’s Church and Norton Priory Collections, U.K. One hundred and twenty-six cranial and postcranial NMTs were examined to determine: 1) the prevalence, 2) whether there are significant differences between the sexes and/or by age category, 3) if there is variation in mechanical and genetic NMT frequency between the three samples and, 4) to explore possible familial relationships through hierarchal cluster analysis and burial spatial distribution. It is thought that family members are often buried near one another, suggesting that individuals sharing similar genetic NMTs would be buried within close proximity to each other. This thesis has revealed the frequency of 126 NMTs for each sample. No significant differences were reported between the sexes at Poulton Chapel whereas significant differences were noted at St. Owen’s Church and Norton Priory, especially for NMTs considered genetic in origin. For all samples, significant differences were found among the age categories. Intra-populational differences were explored between the three samples. The results of these comparisons highlight that 60 NMTs are shared between the Poulton Chapel and Norton Priory Collection, while St. Owen’s Church only shares few traits with both sites. This suggests a probable geographical north-south divide between the three sites. Finally, the hierarchal cluster analysis identified probable familial relationships for the Norton Priory sample. This is supported by the burial spatial distribution and historical documentary evidence. Unfortunately, this analysis was unsuccessful for St. Owen’s Church with limited results for the Poulton Chapel sample. Future research is required to incorporate aDNA analysis to confirm the likelihood of familial links within these sites, supporting the use of certain NMTs is the use of establishing familial relationships.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nonmetric Traits; Human Variation; Medieval; Relatedness
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics
Q Science > QM Human anatomy
Q Science > QP Physiology
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2018 09:06
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2022 14:29
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00008590
Supervisors: Irish, J, Gonzalez, S and Borrini, M
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8590
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