Differences in the Stature and Status of Two Populations in Medieval Cremona (Lombardy), Italy: Evidence from Human Skeletal Remains from Adjacent Urban Cemeteries

Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.3-4 – 2016

KEY WORDS: Cremona, Italy, the Medieval Period, status and stature, human skeletons, urban health.

Findings from statures that were calculated from the bones of a 14th century population buried along the Via Gerolamo in Cremona, Italy, have raised a number of new questions. There are two adjacent cemetery areas, representing burial locations serving two different parishes, though perhaps one area served the members of the parish, while the Via Gerolamo burials rep-resent the clergy who served that parish. The Via Gerolamo males represent a shorter population than that found buried in the nearby cemetery associated with the church of San Lorenzo. The evidence suggests that social class and other factors are significant variables that must be considered when evaluating any cemetery population and making inferences.
The extremely tall stature of the people interred (700-1800 CE) within and immediately around the church of San Lorenzo (Becker, 2016) and along the Via Gerolamo also suggests differences between rural and urban populations; the latter, commonly believed to be shorter than their country counter-parts, require closer examination. Why the males from the Via Gerolamo group, from a proximal burial site presumably serv-ing a different population within the same city, are shorter than the San Lorenzo males merits further ethnographic study. Dif-ferences between these two populations also demonstrate the need to evaluate the cemetery populations according to their specific locations and periods of time. One cannot assume that any given skeletal population represents an entire region or country, such as Italy, and an entire period, an inference com-monly made by historians and classical archaeologists.

Becker, M.J.
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology,
West Chester University of Pennsylvania,
West Chester, PA 19383, USA.
E-mail: mbecker@wcupa.edu