Guildhall Yard cemetery summary

The Guildhall Yard East (GYE92) site was excavated from Portland House, 72-73 Basinghall Street, EC2 by MOLAS (Museum of London Archaeological Service) between 1992 and 1997.

Originally, it was the site of the medieval churchyard of St Lawrence Jewry, a lay cemetery, where the earliest burials are thought to date from the late eleventh century.

A total of 68 individuals were analysed and entered on to the WORD database.

Two separate periods, 10 and 11, have been identified and recorded for this site. Period 10 has three defined land uses, OA101, OA102 and OA108 dating from 1050-1150, while Period 11 had two, OA115 and OA132. All burials were supine and aligned east to west. Copper Alloy Bells were discovered in a number of the graves.

Preservation

Although several adults could not be sexed due to lack of skeletal completeness the bone quality across the site was excellent with only minor post mortem damage to the ends of long bones.

Graph of skeletal completeness for medieval Guildhall Yard
Figure 1 Skeletal completeness

Demography

From the 68 individuals recovered from the Guildhall Yard East churchyard, 47 (69.1%) were adults, including 18 (26.5%) males, 15 (22.1%) females and 14 (20.6%) unsexed individuals. Almost equal numbers of adults were placed in 26-35 and 36-45 year age categories, accounting for 44.7% of adult burials, however, 27.7% of all adult remains could not be aged due to the absence of required elements. Twenty one (30.9%) children were recovered from the site, with 57% being between the ages of 6 and 11.

Graph of age distribution in Guildhall Yard
Figure 2 Age distribution (N=68)

N= %
Perinatal 0 0
1-6 month 0 0
7-11 month 1 1.5
1-5 years 4 5.9
6-11 years 12 17.6
12-17 years 4 5.9
18-25 years 7 10.3
26-35 years 10 14.7
36-45 years 11 16.2
>46 years 6 8.8
Adult 13 19.1
Sub adult 0 0
Table 1 Age distribution (N=68)

Graph of adult gender distribution by age
Figure 3 Adult male and female distribution by age (N=47)

All adults % Male % Female %
18-25 years 7 14.9 5 27.8 2 13.3
26-35 years 10 21.3 4 22.2 5 33.3
36-45 years 11 23.4 7 38.9 3 20.0
>46 years 6 12.8 1 5.6 5 33.3
Uassigned Adults 13 27.7 1 5.6 0 0.0
Total 47 18 15
Table 2 Male and female distribution by age in the adult population

Stature

Stature estimation derived for individuals recovered from the Guildhall Yard East site indicated that the heights of both males and females were consistent with other medieval populations across Britain.

Sex Avg_stat SD VAR MIN MAX N
Female 157.5 1.2 1.4 156.1 158.3 3
Male 169.3 4.4 19.5 161.6 174.9 9
Unsexed 159.3 11.3 127.1 151.4 167.3 2
Table 3 Stature estimation by femoral length

Pathology

Of the 68 individuals recovered 10% exhibited cribra orbitalia in the left orbit and 7% in the right. No cases were observable in identifiable females. 14% of all sub-adults exhibited cribra orbitalia in the left orbit and 10% in the right.

17% of all males and 7% of all females exhibited examples of healed trauma, including an avulsion fracture to the distal right humerus [10690], a fractured metacarpal [20590] and a fractured hand phalanx, resulting in the fusion of proximal and intermediate phalanges [17166].

Guildhall Yard pathology (Word 60kb)

Vertebral pathology

All adults Male Female
N n % N n % N n %
Osteoarthritis 33 3 9.4 16 0 6.7 15 2 6.7
Osteophytosis 33 11 34.4 16 7 40 15 4 33.3
IVD 33 17 53.1 16 8 53.3 15 8 60
Schmorl's nodes 33 15 43.8 16 10 60 15 5 33.3
Fusion 33 0 0 16 0 0 15 0
Table 4 Distribution of vertebral pathology by sex in adults with one or more vertebrae present.

Dental pathology

31% of the adult population suffered from dental caries, with 4.8% of all dentition recovered exhibiting the disease. Females suffered substantially more than males, with 50% of all females having carious lesions compared to 13.3% of males. 16.7% of sub-adults were affected, with 2.7% of all sub-adult dentition exhibiting carious lesions.

These findings are low in comparison to other medieval populations from across Britain, where incidence rates are frequently calculated at 45% or above (Roberts and Cox 2003 pp 258-259).

88.3% of all visible teeth had some degree of calculus, with a higher prevalence once again being observed amongst the females. Every female had some degree of calculus, compared to 86.7% of men. 83.3% of all children had calculus.

These figures are similar to those calculated for the medieval populations of Fish Lane in Limmerick, Greyfriars in Chester and Holy Trinity Priory in London, all of which produced incidence rates between 84 and 100%. However, compared to other populations from a similar period, the incidence rates are high (Roberts and Cox 2003 pp261-262).

Prevalence rates of hypoplasia in sub adults and adults were almost equal, with 58.6% of adults being affected and 58.3% of sub adults. Of the adults, 66.7% of males had observable hypoplasia, compared to only 50% of females. Hypoplasia is the only form of dental pathology that affected males more than females in the Guildhall Yard East population.

33.9% of all adults and 2.5% of sub-adults exhibited signs of periodontitis. Once again higher prevalence rates were observed in females, with 91.7% suffering compared to 73.3% of males. These figures are slightly higher than those seen in the majority of similar populations, which have calculated incidence rates of around 50-60% (Roberts and Cox 2003 pp 260-261).

Over double the number of females suffered periapical lesions than the males, with 50% of all females afflicted compared to only 20% of males. 3% of all observable dentition had periapical lesions. No sub adults were affected.

Caries Calculus Hypoplasia Periodotitis Periapical lesions
N n % N n % N n % N n % N n %
Male 15 2 13.3 15 13 86.7 15 10 66.7 15 11 73.3 15 3 20
Female 12 6 50 12 12 100 12 6 50 12 11 91.7 12 6 50
All adults 29 9 31 29 26 89.7 29 17 58.6 29 23 79.3 29 11 37
Sub Adults 12 2 16.7 12 10 83.3 12 7 58.3 12 3 25 12 0 0
Table 5 Dental pathology in sub adults and adults

Conclusion

The population from Guildhall Yard represents a small medieval community living in the centre of London in the late eleventh and early twelfth century. This site remains largely unstudied providing plenty of opportunities for population analysis.

Links to excavations carried out on this cemetery

Archaeological excavations carried out at the following locations recovered material from this cemetery. Click on the sitecode links to see a summary of the excavation.

Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard; Portland House, 72-73 Basinghall Street, EC2
Site code: GYE92

Recorded by: Cowal, L
Last updated: 27 February 2007
Text: Cowal, L