MA Theses: Ellie Gooderham, 2018

Growth as an Indicator of Social and Economic Transition from the Islamic to Late Medieval Christian period in Portugal: A Comparative Study of Linear and Appositional Growth


Objectives: This study explores whether child growth has signaled periods of social change between the Medieval Islamic and post-Islamic Christian Periods in Santarém, Portugal, employing evidence for indicators of stress to examine shifts in the social environment. One major social change came with the Golden Age of Islam, when social improvements may have led to better living conditions, through an improvement in the social determinates of health.

Materials and methods: Using 42 juvenile skeletons, age was calculated from tooth length. Linear growth of diaphyseal length for all long bones and appositional growth of the femur midshaft were compared with expected growth from the Denver Growth Study, using z-score.

Results: Meaningful long bone length stunting was found throughout the Medieval Islamic and Christian Periods in Santarém, as well as a deficit in appositional growth of cortical bone. There was more evidence for growth disruption in children aged two years or more. Although children in the post-Islamic Christian period showed a trend towards increased linear and appositional growth deficits, these differences were not statistically significant.

Discussion: Deficits were extensively observed throughout the neonate stage to older juveniles in both the Medieval Islamic and Late Medieval Christian Periods, causing growth disruption. These patterns of growth deficits were stronger for those aged two or more, which suggests that extrinsic sources of stress were causing accumulated deficits. Further studies are needed to explore the possibility that the Islamic Period was more favourable for child growth.

Keywords:     growth and development; long bone growth; linear growth; cortical bone; appositional growth; Medieval; Portugal; social environment