Ageing the elderly: A new approach to the estimation of the age-at-death distribution from skeletal remains

Clare McFadden*, Christine M. Cave, Marc F. Oxenham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study reports on the use of a proportional measure to estimate the age-at-death distribution of an assemblage and, when combined with a seriation method, additionally estimate the age-at-death of individuals. Traditional methods of estimating age-at-death suffer from a number of issues, including decreasing accuracy with increasing age, age mimicry of the reference population, and difficulty balancing accuracy with precision. A new method is proposed for estimating the age-at-death distribution of middle and older adults. As the age-at-death distribution is significantly impacted by the fertility rate, it was hypothesised that the D0-14/D ratio (the number of individuals who died aged 0–14 years divided by the total population; an indicator of fertility) may be able to estimate the proportion of individuals that might be expected to die in each five-year age group over 35 years. The method permits the estimation of individual age when used in conjunction with seriation methods and the age-at-death distribution of a population. The method is tested on two samples of known age, the Spitalfields crypt and St Thomas' Church cemetery collections and found to provide greater accuracy over previously applied methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1078
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of osteoarchaeology
Issue number6
Early online date24 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • age-at-death
  • D0-14/D ratio
  • elderly
  • fertility
  • mortality


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