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

Bilateral positioning of nutrient foramina in the human tibia, femur, and humerus


Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Skeletal analyses sometimes rely on the position of the nutrient foramen as an anatomically stable landmark when analyzing the characteristics of fragmentary bone, yet no systematic study has tested the validity of this practice. Our aim is to test whether nutrient foramina are symmetrically positioned in paired long bones. We hypothesize that: 1) the relative position of long bone nutrient foramina with respect to overall diaphyseal length is inconsistent during ontogeny and maturity; and 2) individuals exhibit weak bilateral symmetry in nutrient foramen placement. The skeletal collection analyzed is from SunWatch Village, an Ohio Valley settlement occupied from AD 1200-1300. Individuals range from neonate to mature adult. Measurements were taken of diaphyseal length and relative nutrient foramen position in paired humeri, femora, and tibiae. Regression analyses were performed to determine whether the relative position of the foramen of the tibia, femur, and humerus remains consistent throughout development. A t-test was performed on paired long bones to assess the significance of foramen bilateral asymmetry. Regression results provide R2 values of 0.17, 0.14, and 0.07 for the femur, tibia, and humerus, respectively. Thus, very little variation in foramen position is accounted for by age. T-test results indicate that bilateral differences are insignificant in all three bones. These findings support the use of nutrient foramen position as a bilaterally-symmetrical landmark; however, the degree of variation between individuals and across ages is too great to justify the use of this feature as a universal skeletal reference point.

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