Irene Barbiera

Irene Barbiera

STANDARD LIFE TABLES FOR WESTERN AND SOUTHERN EUROPE FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE BLACK DEATH
Irene Barbiera, Maria Castiglioni


This paper aims to infer mortality regimes from human remains from antiquity to the Black Death in 1347-49, excavated from European cemeteries. Specifically, we: (1) move from the age distribution of deaths of a single cemetery to its death probability profile; and (2) build standard life tables deduced directly from the necropolis. We employ data from 75 cemeteries (17,107 individuals), located across a vast region covering Western and Southern Europe, which includes today’s UK, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Italy. These sites guarantee a reliable group of deaths by age. We present the procedure adopted to estimate the probability of dying for each cemetery by age classes, beginning at age 5 up to 60. We then calculate the median series of the probability of dying, and those referring to the first and third quartiles. Life expectancy at five years varies from 27.2 (first quartile) to 38.8 (third quartile), with e5=32.8 for the median table. Comparing our results with other standard life-table for ancient Europe, we show that skeletal data can offer trustable information on European mortality from antiquity to the Black Death.