Sex and the elderly: Attitudes to long-lived women and men in early Anglo-Saxon England

Christine M. Cave, Marc F. Oxenham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Currently, in the industrialised world, women have a higher life expectancy than men, a pattern often seen in the past as well. However, in Britain, from the Neolithic to medieval period, it has been suggested that men outlived women. One issue with such statistics is that age estimation techniques are often biased, underestimating the age of older individuals, while the oldest individuals in a sample often disappear into catch-all categories such as 50+ years. Here we employ an approach that renders visible the older individuals in three archaeological cemeteries (Great Chesterford; Mill Hill; Worthy Park) to assess gendered longevity and differential mortuary treatment of the elderly in Anglo-Saxon England. We find that women tended to outlive men and while some elderly females were respected in death, others were more likely to receive a non-normative burial than males. Old males tended to receive ‘elaborate’ burial, and were less likely to receive a deviant burial. It appears that ageing in Anglo-Saxon England was a gendered process, with some older women respected like their male counterparts, while others were possibly perceived less auspiciously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-216
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume48
Early online date14 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

    Fingerprint

Keywords

  • Age at death
  • Ageing
  • Cemeteries
  • Gender
  • Life expectancy
  • Mortuary analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

Cite this