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

Form variation in human long bone joints: A comparative geometric morphometric analysis of variation in the knee and elbow


Anthropology, Durham University, UK

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Analyses using geometric morphometric techniques have demonstrated significant population specific variation in the morphology of the bony elements of the human knee joint (distal femur and proximal tibia). Research also indicates an atypical morphology in the knee, particularly the tibia, in the post-medieval population from Spitalfields, London UK (Stevens, 2005; Stevens & Viðarsdóttir, 2012). This study compares and contrasts data from eight human populations, including two further British samples, to that of Spitalfields. It also includes data from the elbow (distal humerus and proximal ulna) to compare with the atypical knee, which ensures a degree of standardization against any systemic disorder in the Spitalfields postcranial morphology. Right-sided data are included from 257 femora, 245 tibiae, 222 humeri and 207 ulnae, largely from the same individuals. Results show that when compared to the additional British samples, the Spitalfields knee appears less morphologically distinct although the Procrustes distance between the Spitalfields sample and the other two samples remains statistically significant. In contrast to both femur and tibia, variation in the shape of the elbow is small between the geographically distinct groups, including Spitalfields, although the three British samples continue to cluster more closely together. However, like the knee, results for the elbow also show statistically significant distance between all groups. Our results indicate that what seemed at first to be unusual variation in the Spitalfields lower limb morphology is likely to be indicative of a more general British morphology, including other areas of the articular skeleton.

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