Determinants of infant mortality and representation in bioarchaeological samples: a review

Clare McFadden* (Corresponding Author), Brianna Muir, Marc Oxenham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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In bioarchaeological contexts, a complex relationship exists between infant representation in the age-at-death distribution, gestational and young child mortality rates, and the total fertility rate. The representation of infants in a skeletal sample may be influenced by a range of social, biological and archaeological factors. To better understand the interactions between representation, fertility and mortality, this study evaluates the relationship between infant juvenile age-at-death proportions, fertility rates, and a range of gestational and early childhood mortality measures. The statistical component of this study found the correlation between fertility rates and infant-juvenile proportions was stronger than with any mortality rate variable of interest. This suggests that the proportion of infants in a mortuary sample is a stronger indicator of fertility than it is of infant-juvenile mortality. Social, biological and archaeological variables potentially influencing infant representation in skeletal samples are discussed and a strongly contextualised and holistic approach to infant and juvenile mortality is recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-206
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Biological Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date19 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

This article is dedicated to the memory of Alistair D. E. Muir (1972 - 2020). This research was partly funded by a British Academy grant GP2\190224. The authors thank the reviewers for their feedback which has improved this manuscript.

Data Availability Statement

The data that supports the findings of this study are available in the supporting information of this article.


  • Fertility
  • Infant health
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infanticide
  • Preservation


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