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Analizy bioarcheologiczne szczątków kostnych z pochówków szkieletowych i ciałopalnych ze Świbia / Bioarchaeological analyses of human remains from skeletal and cremation burials from Świbie

DOI: 10.33547/Swibie2022.2.8

Analizy bioarcheologiczne szczątków kostnych z pochówków szkieletowych i ciałopalnych ze Świbia / Bioarchaeological analyses of human remains from skeletal and cremation burials from Świbie

by Agata Hałuszko 1

1 – Instytut Archeologii, Wydział Historii i Archeologii, Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej w Lublinie, Plac Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej 4A, 20-031 Lublin; Fundacja, ul. Bolesława Prusa 81/3i, 50-316 Wrocław, e-mail:

In: Michnik, M., Dzięgielewski, K. (2022). Cmentarzysko z wczesnej epoki żelaza w Świbiu na Górnym Śląsku. Tom 2, pp. 152-172. Gliwice: Muzeum w Gliwicach, Wydawnictwo Profil-Archeo.


Bones from the inhumation graves were very poorly preserved. The skeletal fragments analysed were significantly eroded. The poor state of preservation of the skeletons is most likely due to the environmental changes taking place in the area occupied by the necropolis and the unfavourable post-depositional conditions prevailing there.
Osteological materials have been preserved in only about 33% of the graves. Anthropological analyses were carried out on bones identified in 220 graves: 100 skeletal, 93 cremations, and 27 bi-ritual graves. A total of 242 individuals have been identified, of which 114 were inhumed and 128 cremated. The presence of more than one individual was observed in 21 burials (excluding burials where bones were lost: 1+?), with three graves: 33, 211, and 427 containing remains of three individuals. Estimating the sex was possible in 62 cases (25.6%), and due to the very poor condition of bones of inhumed individuals, this was more often possible for individuals from cremation graves (26.6%) than from inhumation graves (24.6%). For 33 individuals, tomographic examinations were also undertaken to determine sex based on the LA method. Age at death assigned to a single age category was determined for 98 individuals (40.5%): 32 (28.1%) from inhumation graves and 66 (51.6%) from cremation graves. In addition, 83 individuals (34.3%) were classified into the general age categories of “infans” – 8 individuals (3.3%): four each from cremation and inhumation graves; and “adult” – 75 specimens (30.9%): 50 (43.9%) from inhumation graves and 25 (19.5%) from cremation graves. For 34 individuals out of the 35 examined, a precise age determination was obtained using the TCA method.

Based on the data obtained from the constructed mortality tables, the life expectancy of a newborn (e0) was approximately 21 years, or within a range of 13.05–14.27 years after estimating the missing number of deceased children (d0-14.9). According to the data thus compiled, inhumed individuals had slightly higher life expectancy parameters (e0=22.03 years, after d0-14.9 estimation: 13.89–15.06 years) compared to individuals from cremation graves (e0=19.79 years, after d0-14.9 estimation: 12.60–13.84 years). Individuals of reproductive age (e20) lived to 28 years on average. The average age of death for adult individuals was 28.27 years (28.52 years for inhumed individuals and 28.16 years for cremated individuals). Almost 70% of the population survived to this age, but only 2.3% reached an age above 40 years. The structure of the living population calculated based on the Cx parameter suggests a relatively stable nature of the community using the cemetery, with the structure of inhumed individuals corresponding to a developing population and the structure of cremated individuals to a stabilised one.
Children were more than twice as likely to be cremated, particularly those in the Infans I age category (chi2=4.7635, df.=1, p=0.021809). No such trend was observed among adults, although the data collected suggest that individuals from the Adultus category were inhumed less frequently. For individuals from cremation graves, the total bone mass was determined along with the weight of the distinguished bone fractions. The weight distribution of individual specimens ranged from 0.22 g to 2123.82 g (X=294.35 g; Me=81.46 g; SD=419.739 g) with the most numerous range from 0 to 100 g.

Paleopathology was found in a total of 33 individuals (13.6%). Most of the conditions identified were related to nutritional deficiencies and manifested as linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), interglobular dentin (IGD), cribra orbitalia and hyperostosis porotica. Degenerative lesions (osteophytes, eburnation of the radius head, metatarsal bones fusion), probable changes from respiratory diseases (SES), non-specific diseases (periostitis), diseases of unknown aetiology (HFI), and congenital diseases (Klippel-Feil syndrome) were also found. In addition, the presence of epigenetic traits were observed in three individuals.