The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

What femoral bone morphometry can tell us about the physical burden of early farmers at the advent of agriculture in the Southern Levant?


Anatomy and Anthropology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University

March 26, 2015 2:30, Grand Ballroom E/F/G Add to calendar

The Neolithic revolution (10,500 - 4,300 BCE) in the southern Levant was one of the most significant cultural processes in human history. A debated question accompanying the discussion about the impact of agriculture revolution on humans' way of life relates to the changes in the amplitude and pattern of physical stress in early farmers compared to their preceding hunters.

The aim of the study was to reveal the physical stress and activity pattern among the first farming communities in the Levant through the study of the femoral bone cross-sections geometry.

130 femora (30 Natufian, 83 Neolithic and 18 Modern) housed at the anthropological collection, TAU, underwent a high resolution CT scan. Dedicated computer software was developed and utilized to measure 22 parameters of the femoral cross-sectional areas.

Natufians' femoral cortical bone was significantly thicker throughout bone circumference compared to Neolithic and Modern femora. Coefficient of cortical area variation was significantly higher in the Neolithic populations. No significant differences were found in bone rigidity parameters. The Neolithic femoral cross-section shape was more rounded in its mid-shaft compared to the Natufian. In both Natufian and Modern femora, opposed to the Neolithic femora, the cortex was significantly thicker on the lateral side compared to the medial.

To conclude, the significant decrease in bone robusticity with the transition to farming activities reflects a more sedentary way of life in these populations, whereas the greater variability in their bone thickness suggest a more heterogeneous physical activities (division of labor) in early farming communities.