Universiteit Leiden

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PhD Defence

A sense of society

Wednesday 20 March 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


Humans have long had an ambiguous relationship with physical activity. From the Greek idolization of the young athlete, over the long-lived condescending attitudes towards manual labor, to Olympic performers who push their bodies beyond all limits in a global competition for prestige. This fascination with how we use our bodies extends into the questions we ask about the lives of people in past societies.

This dissertation examines how we can reconstruct physical activity by looking at variations in the shape of muscle attachment sites (so-called ‘entheses’) on the human skeleton. It evaluates two post-medieval contexts, namely rural Middenbeemster and urban Aalst. Findings show societal differences in the sexual division of labor, but also remind us not to over-simplify the lives of people in the past, nor underestimate the complexity of the human body and its varied response to strain.

The dissertation also broaches an entirely new field of study; variation in appearance of entheses in growing, nonadult individuals. By developing a standardized method, it lies the foundation for research into activity reconstruction in children from both archaeological and forensic settings.

Ultimately, it provides the reader with a comprehensive study of the potential and limitations of entheses for activity reconstruction. In doing so, it presents an exceptional glimpse into the lives of people in these past communities and provides future researchers with a deeper temporal foundation for the study of physical activity in our current-day society.



  • Prof. M.L.P Hoogland


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University

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