The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Comparison of age and sex-related changes in trabecular and cortical histomorphometry in a Roman archaeological population


Anthropology, UC Berkeley

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Skeletal data from the Imperial Roman population of Velia demonstrates that cortical and trabecular bone remodel in different ways throughout the life course. Two methods were used in this analysis of bone fragility at Velia: analysis of vertebral trabecular architecture (n= 63), and rib cortical histomorphometry (n=52), using three age cohorts (18-29; 30-49; 50+yrs). The pattern of bone loss differs in important ways between both methods. The trabecular architecture results show that bone volume declines only slightly with age, with the trabeculae unexpectedly compensating similarly between sexes. In contrast, results for cortical histomorphometry reveal more pronounced gradual age-related change. Sex-related differences were explored for each method and no sex differences were observed in any age group. However, the timing of bone loss differed between the methods, with cortical bone showing the greatest loss from young to middle age, while trabecular bone dropped the most from middle to old age. The biosocial contexts of Roman daily life are explored to explain these results, with particular attention to diet, physical activity and reproductive history. Studies using a single method may fail to capture the complex processes of bone loss throughout the entire skeleton. Future studies should aim to include both trabecular and cortical bone in investigations of bone loss in past populations.

This study was funded by SSHRC, grant number 752-2005-1803

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