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

Osteoarthritis as a means to reassociate commingled skeletal remains


1Department of Anthropology, California State University, Chico, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Commingled mortuary contexts contribute a great deal to the study of populations. However, challenges in reassociating skeletal remains often prohibit researchers from gathering information from these sites. To rectify this, there is a need to study and develop methods in order to facilitate the reassociation of discrete individuals. Osteoarthritis was used in this study to determine if the methods of pair matching and articulation can reliably be applied to commingling by investigating whether the presence and severity of osteoarthritis is consistent.

In order to perform this research, an analysis of 85 complete joint surfaces was performed using the Orendorf skeletal sample. A correlation was found between the presence of osteoarthritis in the ulna and humerus (χ2 = 7.374 for 2 df, p = 0.025) and between all of the bones of the shoulder (χ2 = 12.857 for 1 df, p = 0.000), hip (χ2 = 26.466 for 4 df, p = 0.000), and knee (χ2 = 10.459 for 2 df, p = 0.005). However, no correlation was found between the radius and humerus in the elbow (χ2 = 1.345 for 2 df, p = 0.510). These results led to the conclusion that the severity and presence of osteoarthritis should be consistent across joint surfaces. The results of this study, as well as future directions of this research, have relevance to both bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology, as both subdisciplines investigate mass burial contexts.

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