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  Estonian Journal of Archaeology

ISSN 1736-7484 (electronic)  ISSN 1406-2933 (print)

Published since 1997

Estonian Journal of Archaeology

ISSN 1736-7484 (electronic)  ISSN 1406-2933 (print)

Published since 1997

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THE SOCIAL STATUS OF WOMEN IN LATVIA IN THE 7TH–13TH CENTURIES, IN THE LIGHT OF PALAEODEMOGRAPHIC DATA; pp. 56–71

(Full article in PDF format) doi: 10.3176/arch.2010.1.04


Authors

Gunita Zariņa

Abstract

This paper is intended as a contribution to the understanding of women’s social role and living conditions in the Iron Age society in Latvia. The study is based on palaeo­demographic data, obtained in the analysis of osteological material from archaeological excavations of three pre-Christian cemeteries. Masculinisation index for inhumation burials was 1.2–2, and for cremation burials – about 2. The data on women shows two periods of maximum mortality – 33–40% for ages 15–24, and 28–37% for ages 30–39. Adult life expectancy e020 on average was 21.8 years for males, only 15.3 years for females.

The anthropological material from the 10th–13th century cemetery of Salaspils Laukskola permits a comparison of the demographic figures for inhumations and cremations. Adult life expectancy e020 for cremated women, was 16.3 years, slightly exceeding the figure for inhumed women – 15.3 years. The main source of this difference is the proportion of females who died aged 15–24 (33% for inhumed, only 7.6% for cremated). As a result, life expectancy for cremated females is 3.4 years less than for males, while among the inhumations it is 5.6 years less. These differences in demo­graphic statistics suggest that the cremated women may have enjoyed relatively higher social status. The historical demography data for the inhabitants of Latvia in the 18th and 19th centuries indicates that the increased mortality of females aged 20–40 decreases in the 19th century, and that at this time female life expectancy begins to exceed that of males. The mortality maximum among the population shifts from ages 40–50 to 60–80.

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