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

A multifactorial approach to the developmental origins of infectious disease: comparing results from dental histology, paleopathology, and stable isotope analysis


1Anthropology, University of Georgia, 2Division of Paleopathology, Department of Translational Research on New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, University of Pisa, 3Department of Science and Biological, Chemical, and Pharmaceutical Technologies, University of Palermo

April 18, 2020 , Diamond 6 Add to calendar

Bioarchaeological approaches to the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis are confounded by several variables, including cultural context and methodology. This research compares different methodological approaches that assess early childhood stress in skeletal populations and explores the influence of cultural context on bioarchaeological research using the DOHaD hypothesis. We investigate the role of early childhood stress on mortality from infectious disease by comparing cholera victims from Alia (PA) and Benabbio (LU) to contemporaneous, general populations from Badia Pozzeveri (LU) and Pieve dei Monti di Villa (LU), Italy. We compare the results of paleopathological assessments, dental histology, and age-at-weaning estimates between cholera victims and the general population. Pathological markers and demographic characteristics are assessed using the standards outlined in Steckel et al. (2006). Dental histology and incremental stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis is performed on canines from a maximum of 30 individuals per site. We find cholera victims exhibit significantly lower prevalence of cribra orbitalia (X2 = 6.857, df = 1, p = 0.009) and an older average age-at-defect (t=5.047, df =367.5, p<0.001, 95% CI [0.26, 0.60]) compared to the general population, but we also find significant differences between the four sites, including differences in average age-at-defect (X2=48.905, df = 5, p<0.001). No statistical differences in age-at-weaning are found between cholera victims and the general population or between sites. Our research demonstrates that early childhood stress markers vary between cholera and non-cholera individuals, but cultural context and methodological approach are influential factors that explain part of this variation.

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation [grant number 650930]. 

Slides/Poster (pdf)