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


Human bone health at Taumako, ca. 700 – 300 BP Southeast Solomon Islands

JUSTYNA J. MISZKIEWICZ1, HALLIE R. BUCKLEY2, NATHALIA R. DIAS GUIMARAES1, MEG M. WALKER1, LAWRENCE KIKO3 and REBECCA L. KINASTON2.

1School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, 2Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, 3Archaeology Unit, The Solomon Islands National Museum

April 17, 2020 30, Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Previous genetic and bioarchaeological studies have revealed complex past human migration patterns and widespread metabolic disease in the remote regions of the Pacific. However, ancient human bone physiology through the life-course remains to be investigated in this part of the world. Here, we report the first reconstructions of human bone health in relation to age-at-death, sex, and lower limb skeletal function in a ca. 700 – 300 BP sample (n = 69) from Taumako, Solomon Islands.

Posterior femur cortical histology was examined for remodeling events in 34 young, 13 middle-aged, and 22 old adults, representing 42 females and 27 males. Intriguingly, bone vascularity (per ~14 mm2), determined from Haversian canal densities, was significantly (p = 0.04) higher in females (19.37) when compared to males (17.34). This pattern was consistent when adjusted by femoral robusticity (p < 0.01), and within the young sub-group only when corrected by femur midshaft circumference (p = 0.022). As expected, osteon population densities, indicating the amount of remodeled bone per 2.05 mm2, were significantly (p = 0.014) higher in young males (14.84) when compared to young females (11.57).

These results are somewhat at odds with traditional life-course paradigms in bone health. The young Taumako females may have achieved peak bone mass earlier than males, and maintained good bone health in later adulthood. As this island is one of linguistically and genetically distinct “Polynesian outlier” cultures in the Pacific, hereditary aspects and male frailty at the site may contribute to our results.

Australian Research Council, Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE190100068)


Slides/Poster (pdf)