A1 Journal article – refereed
Twelve unidentified skeletons as remains of an epidemic or famine in Northern Finland

List of Authors: Sisko Huumonen, Terttu Särkioja, Sinikka Salo, Markku Niskanen, Heli Maijanen4, Jorma Hirvonen
Publication year: 2016
Journal: Scandinavian Journal of Forensic Science
Volume number: 22
Issue number: 2


Skeletal remains of 12 individuals were found in a grave in a
tar-burning pit. There were no coffins or other belongings to help with
identification or reveal the cause of death.
Methods: Forensic osteological and odontological methods were used to
establish sex, age and height. Histological and chemical tests,
including the determination of C-14 content, were applied to dating the
skeletal remains.
Results: Out of 12 skeletons, 8 were adults; 5 females, 2 males and 1
probable female. Four skeletons belonged to children (ages 1-12
years). The bones had been in the grave for more than 100 years as
concluded from the deterioration of the distal parts, embrittling
of the surface to 1 mm depth. C-14 results gave the radiocarbon years 95
+/- 65 Bp (before present, i.e., 1950). The calibrated years
correspond to two time periods, 1670–1780 AD and 1798–1944 AD, as a
possible period of death.
Conclusions: Starvation and illnesses are the most plausible
explanations for the deaths. Historical studies show that during the
and 19th centuries, there were famines in Finland accompanied by severe
infections (severe famines in the years 1866–1868 and 1696–
1697), forcing a lot of people to leave their homes.

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Last updated on 2019-21-08 at 22:35