A Case of Maternal and Perinatal Death in Neolithic Southern Vietnam, c. 2100-1050 BCE

Anna Willis, Marc F. Oxenham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Despite ostensibly elevated rates of young female mortality in the past, believed to be associated with the risks of pregnancy and child birth, surprisingly few cases of pregnant female burials are reported in the bioarchaeological literature. This paper describes and discusses the case of a young female who died and was interred with an unborn full-term breech foetus at the Neolithic site of An Son, southern Vietnam c. 2100-1050BCE. Her exceptionally poor oral health, evidence for cribra orbitalia, linear enamel hypoplasia, small stature and compromised gynaecological competence, contributes to a differential diagnosis that explores a range of additional complications that may have contributed to the death of both mother and unborn child. An examination and appreciation of this case contribute to our knowledge of the reproductive age and health of young females in Neolithic Southern Vietnam and the challenges they faced during pregnancy and childbirth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-684
Number of pages9
JournalInternational journal of osteoarchaeology
Issue number6
Early online date3 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements We would like to acknowledge the following people:members of the Long An Provincial Museum, Tan An, Bui Phat Diem (Director), Vuong Thu Hong (Deputy Director), Van Ngoc Bich, Nguyen Phuong Thao, Do Thi Lan and Tran Thi Kim Quy. Dang Van Thang from the University of Social Science and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City. Bui Chi Hoang, Nguyen Quoc Man hand Nguyen Khai Quynh from the Centre for Archaeological Studies, Southern Institute of Sustainable Development, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Nguyen Kim Dung from the Institute of Archaeology, Hanoi. This research was supported in part by an Australian Research Council Grant (DP 077 4 079).


  • Death during childbirth
  • Dystocia
  • Neolithic
  • Palaeopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Vietnam


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