Determinants of infant mortality and representation in bioarchaeological samples: a review

Clare McFadden* (Corresponding Author), Brianna Muir, Marc Oxenham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In bioarchaeological contexts, a complex relationship exists between infant representation in the age-at-death distribution, gestational and young child mortality rates, and the total fertility rate. The representation of infants in a skeletal sample may be influenced by a range of social, biological and archaeological factors. To better understand the interactions between representation, fertility and mortality, this study evaluates the relationship between infant juvenile age-at-death proportions, fertility rates, and a range of gestational and early childhood mortality measures. The statistical component of this study found the correlation between fertility rates and infant-juvenile proportions was stronger than with any mortality rate variable of interest. This suggests that the proportion of infants in a mortuary sample is a stronger indicator of fertility than it is of infant-juvenile mortality. Social, biological and archaeological variables potentially influencing infant representation in skeletal samples are discussed and a strongly contextualised and holistic approach to infant and juvenile mortality is recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-206
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Biological Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date19 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Fertility
  • Infant health
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infanticide
  • Preservation


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