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

A new approach to the paleopathological study of anemia(s): Comparative elemental profile by x-ray fluorescence (pXRF) in the Coimbra Identified Osteological Collections


1Departamet of Life Sciences, CIAS, Unversity of Coimbra, 2Departamet of Earth Sciences, Geosciences Center, University of Coimbra

April 17, 2020 9:45AM, Diamond 5 Add to calendar

Clinically, there are many forms of anemia, however its identification in paleopathology is not so simple. This investigation tests the hypothesis that bone trace elements’ concentration may vary in consequence of anemia, as well as in individuals with cribra orbitalia (CO) and porotic hyperostosis (PH).

Forty-six individuals from the Coimbra Identified Collections were studied: 19 with cause of death recorded as anemia(s) (13 females, 6 males; 21 to 90 yrs; x̄=47,11; SD=17,42) and 27 (13 females, 14 males; 7 to 70 yrs; x̄ =36,85; SD= 7,26) as control (e.g. trauma). According to the literature, 15 trace elements (Al,Si,P,S, Cl,K,Ca,Sc,Mn, Fe,Cu,Zn,Sr,Ba,Pb) were measured by pXRF, on bregma, frontal, parietal and occipital bones, and eight elemental ratios (Ca/P,Sr/Ca, Pb/Ca,Sr/Pb, Zn/Fe,K/Fe, K/P,Mn/P) were calculated. Phosphorous’ concentration (U=162,0;W=352,0;p=0,035), Ca/P (U=166,0;W=544,0;p=0,043) and Pb/Ca ratios (U=162,0;W=540,0;p=0,035) presented significant differences between groups. Nevertheless, PCA shown an overlapping distribution among the two. Strictly speaking, individuals from the control’ group could have manifested the anemic condition, because only the cause of death was recorded, with no previous clinical information. CO was observed in one individual (control) and PH in 15 (32.6%; 6 anemic, 8 control). There were not significant elemental differences amongst individuals with cranial porosity (n=16) and without (n=31).

The anemic group had lower phosphorus’ concentration, which might be related to the association between hypophosphatemia and anemia (e.g. individuals with alcoholism, malnutrition and others). Although not conclusive, the results suggest that phosphorous concentration, Ca/P and Pb/Ca ratios can be of use to discriminate anemic individuals in paleopathological investigations.

FCT Grant SFRH/BD/145343/2019, CIAS FCT-Pest-E/SADG/UI0283/2019