The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

A novel method for comparing morphometric and biomechanical data of cancellous bone structure in human hand bones to analyse bone functional adaptation


1Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Bristol, 2Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bristol

April 17, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Cancellous bone structure adapts to loading forces. It has previously been proposed that past manual behavioural activities can be derived from analysis of the cancellous bone structure. We tested the methodological hypothesis that it is possible to analyse the cancellous structure of select human hand bones morphometrically and biomechanically to infer functional bone adaptation in relation to past loading behaviours. A novel comprehensive method was developed to compare the values and spatial distributions of morphometric parameters (bone volume density, degree of anistropy, and trabecular thickness), with the predicted magnitudes and spatial distributions of stress and strain from different manual activity loading scenarios (i.e. hand grips) resulting from validated Finite Element Analysis (FEA). The method was tested on a pilot dataset: micro-CT scans from a post-medieval archaeological human assemblage with known life histories from St Bride’s Church, London. The morphometric analysis method found significant differences in the morphometric parameters analysed between individuals with different levels of manual force activity during life, as well as between age groups. The validated FEAs found qualitative differences of high stress and strain locations and magnitudes between manual activity loading scenarios. A comparison of these results suggested that cancellous bone functional adaptation appeared to be more localised in the proximal phalanx distal epiphysis depending on manual activity, compared to the proximal epiphysis. Overall, this novel comprehensive method was able to spatially compare morphometric differences in cancellous bone structure to modelled biomechanical data, and can be used to infer bone functional adaptation.

Slides/Poster (pdf)