image/svg+xml79XIV/1/2023INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euWealth or Just Job Seekers: Medieval Skeletal Series from Kutná Hora-Sedlec (Czech Republic) with a Notable Surplus of MenHana Brzobohatá1*, Jan Frolík1, Filip Velímský11Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Letenská 4, 118 01 Prague 1, Czech Republic1. IntroductionSilver-bearing ores of the Kutná Hora ore district were probably discovered in the 1260s. Their mining began in the last quarter of the 13thcentury, peaked during the 14thcentury and still played an important role in the 15thcentury. At that time, mining continued at depth, following the ore bodies down, with the deepest part reaching a depth of hundreds of metres (Jaroš, 1955). By the 16thcentury, mining was then beyond its zenith, its decline already begun, and the deposits were entirely exhausted by the end of the 17thcentury (Maur, 2001; Vaněk and Velebil, 2007; Frolík, 2012; Duraj et al., 2019).Traces of old mining activity are ubiquitous in this area. They include shaft adits, collapsed shafts, mining residue dumps, gallery entrances in stream and river valleys, slag heaps, traces of the continual changes and overturning of ground layers, and fndings of items of ceramic technology, or lighting instruments, and include the St George mining gallery which is accessible to the public (Valentová, 1999; Bartoš, 2008; Absolon, 2018). Another old mine, its accessibility strictly limited to experts, is situated in a large depression at the top of a nearby hill (Pechočová, 1992; Tomášek, 1999). Old subterraneous workings are subject to ongoing underground prospection, investigation and documentation – both by amateurs and experts of local mining history (Velímský, 2017). Despite the obvious symbiosis of mining and metallurgical activities during the Middle and Early Modern ages, the fndings of smelting workshops or places of probable smelting trials are very rare (Valentová, 1993; 1999; Frolík, 2014). It is estimated that the local deposits have yielded over 1700–2500 tons of silver; however, the upper limit of this range has been estimated on the basis of highly indirect entries, such as data on the size of the royal urbura – the monarch’s share of the proft – and various royal payments (Kořan, 1950; Vaněk and Velebil, 2007; Holub, 2015).We have to face even much higher uncertainty when it comes to population estimates of this historical area. Any estimates of the size of medieval cities remain highly speculative, but we cannot avoid them. According to some assessments, at the end of the 14thcentury, Kutná Hora had about 8,000 inhabitants (Maur, 1998, p.49); however, other studies present (for around 1500 CE) that the population of Volume XIV ● Issue 1/2023 ● Pages 79–92*Corresponding author. E-mail: brzobohata@arup.cas.czARTICLE INFOArticle history:Received: 11thJuly 2022Accepted: 3rdNovember 2022DOI: words:bioarchaeologymass burialsdemographic crisessex ratioMiddle AgesminingABSTRACTKutná Hora entered the 14thcentury as a rich, prosperous, and densely-populated city producing tons of silver. Such an amount of precious metal could not be mined and processed without an infux of people from other cities and rural areas and without the contribution of skilled specialists from abroad. Despite the apparent wealth of the city, its inhabitants (either settled or newly arrived) experienced and died during mortality crises. Evidence of such events was discovered in the Kutná Hora suburbs, where the medieval burial ground, including a signifcant component of mass burials, has been unearthed. In the data derived from pooled catastrophic and non-catastrophic burials (n=1785 individuals), a notable surplus of males has been identifed with a striking imbalanced adult sex ratio of 149. After considering factors potentially infuencing this value, we suggest that the fgure likely mirrors the original population composition as a consequence of the infow of men migrating to the town for labour/economic opportunities.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2023 ● XIV/1 ● 79–92Hana Brzobohatá, Jan Frolík, Filip Velímský: Wealth or Just Job Seekers: Medieval Skeletal Series from Kutná Hora-Sedlec (Czech Republic) with a Notable Surplus of Men80the city and its suburbs was more than 10,000, and perhaps even 18,000 (Molenda, 1976; Macek, 1992, p.27). Urban growth will occur based on natural increases and any net immigration from nearby or relatively more distant regions (Betsinger and DeWitte, 2021), and this certainly also applied to medieval Kutná Hora, whose socio-professional structure was characterised by an absolute predominance of professions and crafts related to mining, metallurgy and minting. The continuing demand for silver afected the mining system, which was forced into an increasing specialisation of workers with the gradual penetration into greater mining depths (Jaroš, 1955).Thanks to textual as well as pictorial evidence, it is known, which professions worked here. Namely, the Kutná Hora Illumination and the picture in the Kutná Hora Gradual depict the mining and processing of silver in a detailed and almost documentary manner. In addition to the entire technological process (ore milling, ore washing, sales to ore merchants, smelting to produce silver), the illustrations have also captured its protagonists: miners, mine carpenters, workers carrying ore or gangue, organisers of mining works, mine ofcers, unqualifed labourers working on mine ventilation, ore processing, etc.(see Stöllner, 2008 for a more detailed description of all possible activities; Štefan, 2013a). The most complex technological steps were performed by early smelters, whose skills and knowledge went deep and were to be admired because they were able to experimentally-empirically develop highly complicated metallurgical processes without relying on a basic theoretical knowledge of chemistry. They were, for example, able to obtain silver from some poorer and resilient ores of various kinds, as was the case in Kutná Hora (Vaněk and Velebil, 2007). All the above-mentioned workers formed very specifc and artifcial communities working in hostile places, created against all odds and facing regular and serious threats. They were subject to the harsh working conditions associated with mining and smelting: poor ventilation, fooding, mine or rock collapse, and inhalation of noxious gases (toxic) released during metallurgical processes. On the other hand, due to their considerable economic importance, medieval miners were also ofered distinct social, economic, and legal advantages over most other physical labourers at that time (Geltner and Weeda, 2021).During the exploitation of silver deposits, Kutná Hora had always lived “beyond its means” compared to the surrounding territory and the weight of silver could have mitigated against the consequences of disasters and catastrophes (Štefan, 2013b). It is documented that an extensive food supply was necessary to keep early modern Swedish miners and related workers healthy and able to work, and to keep mining operations continuous and at the same intensity (Bäckström et al., 2018). As in Sweden, the Kutná Hora mining community could also have been provided with basic commodities during barren years and the city better bufered from the periodically-occurring famines and disasters. However, the city never resisted completely in every case and occasionally had to surrender. Due to the scarcity of detailed chronicler reports and historical data, little is known about the local famines and epidemic outbreaks, but the town’s high population density coupled with its unhygienic conditions made residents prone to infections (Walter and DeWitte, 2017). However, direct evidence of mortality crises has been discovered in a Kutná Hora suburb, where a medieval burial ground that includes a signifcant component of mass burials has recently been unearthed (Brzobohatá et al., 2019; Brzobohatá et al., 2021; de Lépinau et al., 2021). These mass graves have been assigned to catastrophic events of the second and ffth decade of the 14thcentury, with famine and mortality that peaked in 1318, and plague mortality that peaked in 1348–1350 (see below).The need for both skilled and unskilled workforces that could run the mines prompted the necessary immigration of settlers. From the very beginning of the existence of Czech cities, their proportion of Czech inhabitants gradually increased with the arrival of rural populations from surrounding areas (Maur, 1998). In addition to this predominantly Czech group, the infux of new manpower from abroad to the newly-opened mines beneftted both the settlers and the owners of land rich in silver resources. Similar to other East-Central European medieval mining cities, typical foreign settlers were Germans – ready-skilled miners and smelters who migrated here from areas with long-established mining traditions (Maur, 1998, p.49; Szende, 2011, p.196; 2019; Štefan, 2013b). The proportion of Italians, for example the professional tradesmen and fnanciers involved in organising and fnancing the mining operations and who carefully selected the commercially-most-signifcant settlements, was also not negligible (Szende, 2011, p.196; 2019).Since the medieval towns provided various employment opportunities, women may have constituted a signifcant proportion of the Kutná Hora incomers. But silver-ore mining and silver metallurgy mainly involved male-dominated jobs and thus it can be assumed, with high probability, that new migrants were predominantly men. However, the extent of this phenomenon is unclear and is not discernible from the written evidence. The high immigration rate of particular segments of the population – such as males capable of silver mining/smelting and those migrating for labour opportunities – should be something refected in the mortality record (Grauer, 2002, p.277). The aim of this study is to present the frst anthropological data from the perspective of the population’s sex ratio – an index of the sex composition in demographic and other scholarly analyses that refers to the total number of males for every 100 females in the population (Poston and Micken, 2005, p.42). Much of the contemporary research on sex ratios deals with sex ratios at birth. Worldwide, today, the sex ratio at birth is not equal (but remarkably homogeneous) and usually reaches values about 103–107 boys per 100 girls (Bardsley, 2014; Chao et al., 2019). The child sex ratio, assigned to the period of infancy and childhood, can be afected by a wide range of determinants, such as diferential mortality rates, gender-discriminatory practices or less apparent factors such as
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2023 ● XIV/1 ● 79–92Hana Brzobohatá, Jan Frolík, Filip Velímský: Wealth or Just Job Seekers: Medieval Skeletal Series from Kutná Hora-Sedlec (Czech Republic) with a Notable Surplus of Men81various kinds of patriarchal features (Szołtysek et al., 2022). In adult populations, its value depends on several factors: the sex ratio at birth, diferential mortality rates between the sexes at diferent ages, and losses and gains through migration (Hesketh and Zhu, 2006). In most countries throughout the world, the greater mortality rates of males means that the sex ratio decreases across the age range to a value much closer to 100 in full adulthood. In developed countries there is a further decline in the sex ratio and women usually predominate in the older age categories (Coale, 1991; Klufová, 2008, p.41). Currently this indicator can take various forms, such as the operational sex ratio, which captures the number of men and women that are available to potential partners (Filser and Willführ, 2022).In the current study we have aimed: (1) to investigate the possible diferences in male and female counts in the skeletal assemblages derived from the medieval population of Kutná Hora, and (2), if the assumption of a surplus of men is confrmed as a given, to explore whether this surplus is manifested both in years of demographic crises and in non-catastrophic times, in a consistent way.2. Materials and Methods2.1 Archaeological Context and Site InformationThe recorded evidence of prehistoric and medieval colonisation in the Kutná Hora-Sedlec area is very rich owing to the long-term archaeological research of the site and its key subject, the famous Cistercian monastery (Velímský, 2009; Charvátová, 2013). The Cemetery Church of All Saints with Ossuary, originally Gothic but latterly rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 1700s, is located in the northern part of the monastery complex on a very gentle, north-rising slope that forms part of the southern foot of Kaňk Hill (Figure 1). The cemetery neighbouring the church building is still a functional burial ground for the local population, which is the reason why no archaeological excavation had been carried out there until 2013. The cemetery has been reported as being in this position since the end of the 13thcentury, when it was to be newly founded as a lay cemetery for the monastery’s subjects (tributaries) and the newly-arrived population of upper settlements in the expanding town of Kutná Hora. The frst mention of Sedlec cemetery (Scedlicensi cimiterio)