Dunfermline YAC: Graveyard Dig 2016 – Bones and Teeth
During our dig, we have found lots of different types of bones. Maybe most surprisingly we have found lots of teeth. We have nineteen individual teeth and one piece of jawbone with two teeth in it. Teeth survive so well in the soil because of the enamel that protects them.
Diet and wear
A lot of our teeth show signs of wear. This is because the oats and wheat were stone-milled so small bits of stone got into the flour; anything that was baked using flour wasn’t very good for the people's teeth. Wear on teeth can tell us a lot about the lifestyle of the person they belonged to, for instance – there are no cavities in the teeth beacuse there was not much sugar in their diets. We are also assuming that the teeth we have found are all from the individuals that died in the 19th century or earlier because we know that the graveyard wasn’t used for burials after the end of that century.
This worn molar (left) can tell us about the food that this person ate. Poorer people would eat lots of bread and grains such as oats and wheat. A loaf of bread cost three pennies.
This coarse food would need lots of chewing and that’s how the teeth were worn down. These cheap foods weren’t very high in vitamins and so health problems such as rickets could occur.
Poor families could only afford meat or fish once a week. This was usually saved for Sunday lunch.
Also on our dig we found lots of small bones that would have have belonged to children.
This also suggests that health was an issue and mortality rates were high. The large amount of children’s bones we have found suggests infant mortality was high too.
Blog by Alexander, Dunfermline YAC member
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