Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Physical Anthropology


S.R. Sounders




The earliest written reference to rickets comes from Soranus of Ephesus, a Roman medical writer of the early second century AD who describes a high number of children in Rome suffering from rochitic deformities. The current study utilizes two independent forms of evidence, skeletal and historic, to study the prevalence of rickets among the human subadult skeletons of the 1st to 3rd century imperial Roman necropolis of lsola Sacra. The necropolis of lsola Sacra represents the remains of individuals who inhabited imperial Rome's key maritime part', Portus Romae on the Mediterranean coast 23 kilometers west of Rome. One hundred and eighty-two subadult skeletons were examined morphologically and radiographically to search for diagnostic indicators of rickets.

Fifteen percent (27/182) of lsola Sacra subadults, birth to 15 years, show rachitic traits with a wide range of morphological presentation. Most individuals suffered from hyperplastic rickets, less likely due to malnutrition. All age categories and burial types show rachitic traits. No association was found between age and the appearance of rickets. No association was found between burial type and the appearance of rickets.

Roman cultural practices, social values and socioeconomic status of the populace using the necropolis may have predisposed the subadult population of lsola Sacra to rickets. Low maternal vitamin D is likely a strong contributing factor to rickets prevalence in the lsola Sacra sample and wos the result of sociocultural factors influencing maternal vitamin D intake.

McMaster University Library

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