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

“Leading” bones in the degenerative joint disease scoring: evaluation of the consistency of using incomplete joints in an archaeological sample


Sezione di Antropologia, Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico "L. Pigorini", Rome

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The archaeological skeletal sample of the Imperial Roman necropolis of Porta Marina at Velia (Italy, I-II cent. AD) consists of more than 300 skeletons with a mortality profile which fits the Coale and Demeny west female model 1 and it is characterized by an exceptional preservation state. On the adult sub-sample (N= 102), we carried out the degenerative joint disease analysis (DJD), taking into the account shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle. While it is know that within the same joint the single bone ends show different level of affection, the preservation of archaeological remains often preclude the recovery of complete joints. This consideration led us to perform an investigation aimed to quantify the effective informative value, on an archaeological sample, of the scoring procedure customarily adopted in the relevant literature. The results confirm that differences in bones in a given joint complex show that one element is more consistently affected. For example, in the shoulder joint the scapula glenoid fossa and the humerus proximal epiphysis show the same level of affection in 55% of the cases while the glenoid fossa is a better DJD predictor in 39% of the cases. In the elbow joint, the ulna is definitely the “leading bone” in the DJD recording, showing the highest scores in 53% of the cases. Thus the presence of the most informative bones for each joint is a primary condition in order to achieve a more realistic picture of DJD at both individual and population level.

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