Demographic reconstruction from an historic mortuary site in rural Poland
Paleodemography is the field of inquiry that attempts to identify demographic patterns from past populations derived from archeological context, providing a reflection of those patterns in a once-living population. When a skeletal collection is incomplete, however, paleodemographic methods are inadequate for this purpose. Researchers can test the representativeness of their samples by comparing the mortality data derived from the skeletal samples with the documentary mortality data from the associated mortuary location or that of valid reference populations derived from historic vital records such as Catholic parish registers. The Drawsko, Poland collection excavated 2008-2009 is an incomplete skeletal collection from mid-17th to early 19th century Poland. The goal of this study was to develop demographic profiles from vital records for valid reference populations in historical context with the Drawsko collection and compare those profiles to the paleodemographic profile of the skeletal material. The results demonstrate that the Drawsko site has yielded a collection that could be reflective of the parent population and exposes shortcomings in osteological aging methods in relation to demographic analysis. The study also offers interesting insight into the causes of death and mortality patterns in rural Poland.