Stanley J. Ulijaszek
Diet and nutrition need to be adequate to sustain human growth, sexual maturation, reproduction, and the physical labour needed to obtain food and support the successful maturation of offspring to reproductive age. This chapter examines human diet and nutrition as they relate to infectious disease experience, and how nutrition and infection influence the human life course, which is organized according to life history stages. Human life history theory organizes growth and reproduction into largely exclusive processes: available energy goes first into the former, and then, after puberty, into the latter. Human life history is extremely plastic, with child growth, onset of sexual maturity, fecundity and longevity all being sensitive to nutrition. Such plasticity has been fundamental to human ecological success and it is important to understand it to be able to interpret evidence for biological quality of life among past populations.
The skeletal remains of infants and children are a poignant reminder of the perilous nature of childhood in the past, yet they offer valuable insight into the life histories of individuals and into the health of populations. Many osteoarchaeological and bioarchaeological analyses are dependent on two vital pieces of information: the age-at-death and sex of the individual(s) under study. This chapter will outline how age-at-death and sex can be estimated from the skeletal remains and dental development of non-adults, and how these are easier or more difficult to determine than for adults, and will discuss the complexities and controversies surrounding different methods.