• Children of the Abyss: Investigating the association between isotopic physiological stress and skeletal pathology in London during the Industrial Revolution

      O'Donoghue, Ruth; Walker, D.; Beaumont, Julia (Elsevier, 2021-12)
      Objective: This project sought to investigate whether an association may be observed between isotopic stress indicators and skeletal evidence of pathological conditions. Materials: Deciduous and permanent teeth of 15 non-adults from two contemporaneous mid-19th century London burial grounds (City Bunhill, Lukin Street). Methods: δ13C and δ15N was measured in the incrementally sectioned dentine collagen. Isotopic profiles for each individual included death during tooth development. Results: Individuals with skeletal evidence of chronic pathological conditions (e.g., rickets, tuberculosis) exhibited raised δ15N values of 0.5-1.7‰ in the months prior to death. Isotopic change consistent with chronic physiological stress prior to death was also recorded in two individuals with no skeletal evidence of disease. An offset was observed between co-forming bone and dentine δ15N values in both populations, indicating that bone and dentine are not recording the same isotopic changes. Conclusions: Isotopic change consistent with chronic physiological stress was observed in both those with and without skeletal evidence of disease, suggesting that adaptation to chronic stress in childhood was not uncommon within these 19th century London populations. Significance: Chronic physiological stress prior to death may be seen in the incrementally sampled dentine of non-adults who die during tooth formation. Limitations: The temporal resolution of current dentine micro-sampling methods may mask or minimise visibility of shorter-term periods of stress or dietary change. Suggestions for further research: Future research should further explore the relationship between specific skeletal pathologies and isotopic evidence for stress.