The medieval cemetery from Sibiu/Hermannstadt

The restoration of the historical downtown of Sibiu in the first years of 21st century implied extensive works of the Huet Square which now covers the medieval cemetery of the city. This expanded around the Saint Mary Evangelic Church during the 12th-16th centuries. In the summer of 2005 about 2100 m2 from this cemetery was excavated and 1833 graves were recorded. The high density of the graves affected the preserved skeletons: only 8% of them were complete and 78% disturbed by various interventions. The stage of preservation was low and about 66% of the skeletons were in good condition.

For the anthropological analysis were used 656 skeletons from 615 graves with a clear and properly documented archaeological context. The sex ratio reveals a percentage of 38.57 for females, 37.20% for males and the indeterminable are 24.24%; of the total number of skeletons 78.35% are adults and 21.65% subadults. For the entire sample the average death age is 29.26 years, the life expectancy is 32.39 and the mortality rate was 30.87.

In skeletons determined as sub-adults were measured: the clavicle, the humerus, the radius and cubitus, the femur, the tibia and the fibula. In both age structures used the Sibiu sample situates in normal infantile long bones growth values. Of the total of 36 skulls properly preserved one belongs to an infans and the rest of 35 belong to adults (23 males, 12 females, one indeterminable). In female sample, for femora, the average values of stature are between 155.71 and 155.74 cm and for males are 167.13-167.28 cm. Regarding to the asymmetry, it is interesting to consider that the values for females correspond, in two situations, to the ones for pre-industrial Europeans and for males only in one; to some extent the two values, for males and males, should be similar but it is noteworthy that the results for Sibiu clearly demonstrate a different asymmetry. The differences between sexes were established for all average dimensions, by subtracting the values for females from the values for men. The results for men are higher with 9 to 33 mm than females.

From 514 adults skeletons examined in the Sibiu-Pia?a Huet sample, only 145 skeletons having some fragments of the maxillary and mandible present and there were counted 1170 teeth and 1701 sockets. Five cases of linear enamel hypoplasia were scored. The dental calculus is visible only in 25.36% of the 138 skeletons with preserved teeth. A significant number of skeletons show ante-mortem teeth loss with a higher ratio in females. By comparison with other medieval sites quite different results have been obtained: the total number of abscesses is higher, with a total of 3.23%. Regarding the caries, the molars show the highest frequencies of lesions, but in most cases the mandibular ones being affected. In addition, the female skeletons were extensively affected, mostly the mandibular teeth having caries. Only three individuals among the 142 studied sub-adults show evidence of dental caries because the total number of deciduous teeth available for study was very low.

From the total of 238 cases in Sibiu-Pia?a Huet with preserved cranial bones, 3.78% show signs of hyperostosa porotica. In this sample only a male of 50-60 years old presented signs associated with rickets, such as the light curvature of the humeri. In the Pia?a Huet sample the osteoperiostitis was the pathological condition frequently indentified. A number of 263 bones were affected by osteoperiostitis and almost half of them being tibiae (48.67%), but also was found on fibulae (33.84%), femora (15.21%) and rarely on metatarsal, few ulnae, radii and hand bones (2.28%). In the sample there were identified four possible cases of tuberculosis affecting adult individuals of both sexes. Osteoarthritis is the most common disease in the Pia?a Huet sample (20.12%), affecting especially the joints and the vertebral column, with erosions of the cartilage, osteophytes and rarely eburnation of the bone. Half of the affected individuals were males (55.30%), the rest were females (42.42%) and indeterminable (2.27%).

There were identified 32 individuals exhibiting signs of trauma. There are a higher number of males (46.88%) than females (37.50%) and unsexed individuals (15.63%). A number of 19 individuals show signs of fractures, seven females, eight males and three unsexed individuals. All of the identified fractures are fully healed, most of the fractured bones belonging to male individuals (48.28%), comparing to the females (41.38%) and unsexed individuals (10.34%). Other identified pathologies: two cases with projectile force trauma, four cases with blunt force trauma, six with miossitis osificans traumatica, six cases with enthesopaties, four with cortical defects, two with tumors and one with trephination.

It is worth considering that the results combined with the archaeological data offer for the first time, in the Romanian anthropological literature, an image of the life standards and health of a medieval community. The paleodemographic indicators, the evolution of the statures and the diseases indicate a general degradation of the lifestyle for the entire sample in the 13th-15th. The pathology and the decrease of statures in both sexes in the 13th-15th centuries can be explained by the stress which affected this population due to the migration from Western Europe in a different ecological environment. There is a reversion in the 15th-16th centuries but only in males, the females show the same tendencies. Infections, osteoarthritis and traumas are more frequent in males; in opposition the dental diseases are more frequent in females. Only males exhibit skeletal diseases associated with hard physical work. All skeletal afflictions connected with intense physical activities affected males, one third dated in 12th-13th centuries and the rest in 15th-16th. The interpretation of the anthropological analysis indicates that in the Sibiu osteological sample the lower stature, the lower life expectancy, the mortality growth and the incidence of several pathological signs are conditioned by external elements. A cooler climate means more rain or snow, which means bad crops and staving or weak animals, and starving or mal-nourished population and excessive resources consumption. The plague affects all age and sex groups however there is a higher mortality in challenged individuals. The wars affect mainly the men but there are also victims between civilians. The natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, cause deaths in all age or sex groups, depending on the scale of the event.

Published: 2013
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