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Bone histomorphometric measures of physical activity in children from Medieval England

Pitfield, Rosie, Deter, Chris, Mahoney, Patrick (2019) Bone histomorphometric measures of physical activity in children from Medieval England. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 169 . pp. 730-746. ISSN 0002-9483. E-ISSN 1096-8644. (doi:10.1002/ajpa.23853) (KAR id:73687)

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Objectives: Histomorphometric studies show consistent links between physical activity patterns and the microstructure underlying the size and shape of bone. Here we adopt a combined bone approach to explore variation in microstructure of ribs and humeri related to physical activity and historical records of manual labor in skeletal samples of children (n=175) from medieval England. The humerus reflects greater biomechanically induced microstructural variation than the rib which is used here as a control. Variation in microstructure is sought between regions in England (Canterbury, York, Newcastle), and between high- and low-status children from Canterbury.

Results: The density and size of secondary osteons in the humerus differed significantly in children from Canterbury when compared to those from York and Newcastle. Amongst the older children, secondary osteon circularity and diameter differed significantly between higher and lower status children.

Discussion: By applying bone remodeling principles to the histomorphometric data we infer that medieval children in Canterbury engaged in less physically demanding activities than children from York or Newcastle. Within Canterbury, high-status and low-status children experienced similar biomechanical loading until around seven years of age. After this age low-status children performed activities that resulted in more habitual loading on their arm bones than the high-status children. This inferred change in physical activity is consistent with historical textual evidence that describes children entering the work force at this age.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1002/ajpa.23853
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Patrick Mahoney
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2019 08:07 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:04 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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