Skeletal trauma found in Cambridge’s medieval residents


Social inequality was “recorded on the bones” of Cambridge’s medieval residents, according to a new study of hundreds of human remains excavated from three very different burial sites within the historic city centre.

University of Cambridge researchers examined the remains of 314 individuals dating from the 10th to the 14th century and collected evidence of “skeletal trauma” – a barometer for levels of hardship endured in life.

“Life was toughest at the bottom – but life was tough all over”

Dr Jenna Dittmar

Using x-ray analysis, the team found that 44% of working people had bone fractures, compared to 32% of those in the friary and 27% of those buried by the hospital. Fractures were more common in male remains (40%) than female (26%) across all burials.


The team also uncovered noteworthy cases, such as a friar who resembles a modern hit-and-run victim, and bones that suggest lives blighted by violence. The findings are published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

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