The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

The use of musculoskeletal stress markers in determining the effects of workload in a Roman Imperial Necropolis (I-III centuries AD)


1Collaborator of Anthropology Service, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, 2Anthropology Service, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, 3Department of Biology, University of Rome Tor Vergata

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Muscle stresses could leave marks on the bones. Micro-trauma that may occur in activities usually related to workload, can produce alterations that represent the bone reaction to the performance of daily activities. The location and the different types of these alterations may therefore be a parameter for the reconstruction of the life style of a population, contributing to the identification of work load patterns and its division based on sex and / or social status. In the present study 240 individuals were examined. They pertain to the necropolis of Castel Malnome (I-III century AD.), in the extreme western Suburbs of Rome. Joints and muscle-tendon insertions alterations were detected by standardized methods such as those proposed by Mariotti and Hawkey. Schmorl's hernia, osteophytes, fractures and fusions of vertebral bodies were also observed. The data analysis allowed to highlight different incidence directions on the upper part of the body with respect to the lower one and even on the preponderance in the use of certain muscle groups linked to specific movements. Notwithstanding, the reconstruction of work activities through the observation of muscle injuries might be conditioned by methodological difficulties and interpretation. The muscles origins and insertions are usually complex to detect and rarely have a morphology associated with a specific activity; moreover a muscle group is often involved in several movements. Nevertheless, all of these data, especially when considered in population analysis, could be a valuable tool in anthropological research for the reconstruction of the socio-economic development of ancient communities.

This study was funded by Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma Grant to P. Catalano

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