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

Activity or age? Determining the etiology of enthesopathies in the Newburgh Colored Burial Ground


Anthropology, Ithaca College

Saturday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Many anthropological studies focus on musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM) in an effort to understand their presence as the result of particular physical activities. Enthesopathies, a type of MSM, are bony formations or lytic lesions present at attachment sites of tendons and ligaments. Recently, several studies have not only questioned the methodology employed in MSM research, but also the general acceptance of enthesopathies as indicators of activity-induced stress.

The current study assesses the frequency of enthesopathies in the skeletal remains from the Newburgh Colored Burial Ground (1830’s-1870’s). The skeletal sample represents a population of 99 African Americans many of who likely experienced enslavement during their lifetimes. The daily activities of the population would have varied, including physically demanding jobs associated with agriculture, industry and working the docks located on the Hudson River. Analyses of the sample are essential to understanding the daily lives and stressors of blacks in upstate New York during the transition from enslavement to freedom.

Several insertion sites in both the upper and lower limbs were coded for the presence of enthesopathies. Data are analyzed with special consideration of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors known to influence enthesopathy development, i.e. fibrous v. fibrocartilaginous, age, sex, non-weight bearing v. weight bearing limbs. Among the results presented and discussed is the positive correlation between skeletal age and enthesopathy presence. Discussion also includes comparisons with previously conducted studies on the impoverished and disenfranchised, including the New York African Burial Ground.

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