Stature and the Neolithic transition– Skeletal evidence from southern Sweden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Human stature is a variable often used to study health changes in present and past populations. In this study possible differences in stature from the late Mesolithic-Early Bronze Age, based on skeletal data from southern Sweden, are investigated. The sample comprises n = 203 femora where maximum lengths were evaluated using non-parametric testing. Sex was assessed primarily using criteria on the pelvis and secondarily through statistical testing of sexual dimorphism. Measurements of the vertical diameter of the femoral head, femoral anterior-posterior and medial-lateral were evaluated using an iterative discriminant analysis. Results confirm a significant difference in femoral length between archaeological culture groups for both sexes. Male femoral lengths evidence a significant increase in the Battle Axe Culture that remained high throughout the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Only a minor increase in male stature associated with the transition to agriculture could be noticed; stature then remained constant until the Pitted Ware Culture. There was no change in female stature following the Neolithic transition. Female stature then increased gradually throughout the Neolithic, but decreased somewhat in the later part of the Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age. These findings suggest that the transition to agriculture did not affect health in any profound way, and that the high stature in the BAC-Early Bronze Age are dependent on a mix of genetic influx, population increase and good nutrition and health, possibly linked to an intensification and consolidation of the agro-pastoral economy.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology


  • Early Bronze Age, Iterative discriminant analysis, Kruskal-Wallis, Maximum femur length, Neolithic, Stature
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb 1
Publication categoryResearch