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

Country roots: Non-urban environments and the impact of socio-economic status on growth in a British cemetery assemblage


Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Friday 4:45-5:00, Ballroom B Add to calendar

In combination with intrinsic genetic factors, extrinsic or environmental factors such as nutritional status, disease, and socio-economic status are important for the regulation of endochondral and appositional bone growth trajectories. High socio-economic status is often cited as a buffer against detrimental environmental conditions and non-urban settings may foster better growth environments. However, few intra-population studies address the effects of status on growth in non-urban settings.

Growth in body size (femoral length, stature, body mass), appositional growth (percent cortical area, %CA), and femoral polar section modulus (overall bone strength, Zp) was evaluated in a large British church cemetery assemblage, Barton-upon-Humber (950 AD-1849 AD). The sample (perinatal to young adult; n=279) was subdivided into age cohorts and the effect of socio-economic status on ontogenetic trajectories was compared between interments Inside (n=46) and Outside (n=233) the church building. It was expected that Outside Church infant and early childhood body size and the environmentally sensitive %CA would suggest less adequate living conditions, and bone strength would indicate greater activity.

Contrary to expectations, results show no statistical effect of status (burial location) on growth in body size from birth to adulthood. However, statistical differences emerge with higher Inside Church bone strength (Zp) after 14 years of age (p<0.01). Percent cortical areas exhibit no significant differences during growth but lower Inside Church values (birth to 5 years) imply infant feeding practices differed with socio-economic status. This suggests non-urban environments may buffer negative effects of socio-economic disparities on growth and high-status loading activity shifts with advancing age.

Research supported by The Wenner-Gren Foundation (EMG)

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