Three age estimation techniques using ectocranial and/or endocranial suture closure are tested on a sample of known age from Spitalfields, London in order to determine the value of cranial suture closure as an indicator of age at death. The three techniques are those proposed by Acsádi and Nemeskéri, Meindl and Lovejoy and Perizonius. Results indicate that the Acsádi and Nemeskéri technique, which is based on endocranial sutures, can be used to distinguish young and middle‐aged individuals in the Spitalfields sample but gives no information for crania over the age of 50 years. Age estimation using the Meindl and Lovejoy and Perizonius (Old system) techniques, which use ectocranial sutures, was found to be subject to a number of complicating factors, of which sexual dimorphism in the rate and pattern of closure is the most significant. A method of estimating age at death based on both endocranial and ectocranial suture closure is developed on the basis of the Spitalfields sample. The technique attempts to overcome some of the problems associated with both intra‐ and interpopulation variation in cranial suture closure. For a truly accurate age‐estimation technique based on cranial suture closure we would need to know more about the causes and functions of suture closure in human populations.
The accuracy of several methods of age estimation based on developing teeth was tested on 63 individuals of known age between 0 and 5.4 years from the Spitalfields Collection. The following methods of age estimation were tested: atlas method of Schour and Massler; diagram of Gustafson and Koch; mineralization age of some deciduous and permanent teeth, Moorrees, Fanning and Hunt, a modified method of Moorrees et al. by Smith, and quantitative methods using deciduous tooth length and weight regression equations, Deutsch, Tam and Stack. Accuracy was measured as the difference between dental age from the developing teeth and actual chronological age available from parish records. Results show that the atlas and diagram methods are considerably more accurate for this population and age group than methods based on mineralization stages of formation. Accuracy for the atlas method was 0.11 (± 0.30) year and diagram method 0.10 (± 0.37) year. The accuracy for methods based on mineralization stages of formation were considerably less accurate: 0.52 (± 0.62) year for deciduous teeth, 0.57 (± 0.42) year for permanent teeth and 0.29 (± 0.39) year for the same method but modified specifically for prediction. Significant differences (P<0.01) between dental and chronological age were apparent for methods based on mineralization stages. Accuracy of the quantitative methods during the first year of postnatal growth was high, the most accurate being deciduous molar length at 0.02 (± 0.15) year. Factors influencing accuracy and the problems encountered with the methods tested are discussed. The Schour and Massler atlas remains the recommended method of dental age estimation for this age group for reasons of accuracy and ease.
We report the extraction and amplification of DNA of Mycobacterium leprae, from ancient skeletal material. The significance of the extraction of ancient bacterial DNA is discussed, as are future directions of research into ancient disease.
Fishing in Denmark during the Ertebølle period is discussed on the basis of almost 100000 identified fishbones from 14 coastal and two inland settlements. Forty‐one fish species were identified from coastal materials, 15 from inland ones. The frequency distribution of total body length of the numerically most important fish species was estimated from bone measurements, using logarithmic regression equations. Otoliths were analysed in order to provide an estimate of season of catch. The main conclusion of the study is that fishing was predominantly conducted by means of stationary fish traps with which uncritical samples of the local fish faunas were taken. Regional differences in the spectrum of species and their relative frequencies are shown to exist. Examples of connections between the coast and inland are given.
The pars basilaris of the human occipital bone is reported to be of considerable value for age estimation in juvenile skeletal remains between early fetal periods and 6 years of age, when it fuses to the remainder of the bone. The aim of this investigation was to examine the relationship between various dimensions of the pars basilaris, and assess their reliability for accurate age estimation. The results confirm the usefulness of the bone in this respect and they are discussed in the light of differential growth of the pars basilaris, and in the increase in dimensions of the boundaries of the foramen magnum.
The aim of the study was to assess the quality of the available evidence pertaining to the effects of sex and castration on the timing of skeletal and dental maturation in sheep. The initial premise was that our present knowldge of the effects of these factors is inadequate, and that currently available published sources and reference specimens are insufficient to allow confident interpretation of archaeological data. A literature survey was carried out, and adequately documented sheep skeletons in a number of major collections were recorded. The results show that the published evidence is contradictory and ambiguous, particularly with regard to the effects of castration, and that currently available reference material is mostly too diverse in origin and in quality of documentation to allow comparison of well‐controlled samples. Some evidence was found to suggest that castration may delay epiphysial fusion during the second year, without delaying fusion of earlier‐ and later‐fusing elements. Overall, it is concluded that much of the received wisdom on skeletal maturation in sheep is poorly founded and unreliable, and that tightly controlled test populations are needed if better data are to be obtained.
The results of this study reveal significantly greater frequencies of caries, periapical abscesses and ante‐mortem tooth loss in the Lower Nubian C‐Group (ca. 2000–1500 BC) compared with the preceding Classic/Terminal A‐Group (ca. 3100–2500 BC). More severe tooth wear in the C‐Group, which traditionally would be interpreted as consistent with a hunting‐gathering subsistence base, can instead be attributed to grit in the diet resulting from the processing of agricultural produce with sandstone and quartzite mortars and grinding stones, and perhaps also to the intentional addition of grit to grain in order to facilitate grinding. The results of this study, when evaluated in the context of complementary archaeological and osteological evidence, indicate that both groups practised a mixed economy but that the C‐Group relied more heavily on cereal cultivation.
Infective lesions of bone in leprosy are of two types. In the rhinomaxillary syndrome, superficial infective changes in the bones of the maxilla are due to the presence of Mycobacterium leprae. Lytic foci in the medulla or the outer cortical surface may be due to Mycobacterium leprae at the site as granulomatous lesions. The most frequent infective bone changes in leprosy are, however, sequelae of regional anaesthesia and soft tissue ulceration. The bone lesions are due to pyogenic bacteria and the nature of these infective lesions is similar to that in non‐leprous conditions. The pyogenic lesions in leprosy are restricted to the bones of the hands, feet and lower legs.
Growth curves were prepared for length of the diaphyses of the six major long bones of the limbs and for length of the calcaneus, talus, cuboid and the first metacarpals and metatarsals, of ages up to 20 years including several immature and many full‐term fetuses. Most curves showed what appears to be a consistent adolescent growth spurt at about 17 years, but the number of specimens supporting these parts of the curves is too small for the validity of this spurt to be beyond doubt. The fetal diaphysis lengths were similar to those of Fazekas and Kósa and other recent populations but, compared with curves prepared from the Maresh radiographic data for recent caucasoids, the island diaphyseal growth rate, starting at about 4 months after birth, fell progressively behind so that, by 18 years for example, the femur was 90 mm shorter and the humerus 60 mm shorter than the Maresh equivalents. These findings accord with the short stature of the island adults (male mean 166.2 cm). The growth curves were closer to those of some ancient peoples, Amerindian, caucasoid and negroid, than to contemporary caucasoid. There is evidence of a secular change in growth in this island region because the calculated mean height at 18 years of this earlier island population is at the present time achieved by boys by about 14 years of age. Thus it is argued that the earlier population was affected by stunting factors. Although there is no skeletal evidence of malnutrition, there is plenty of evidence that the way of life was full of hardship in which the children shared. They took a full part in the arduous work involved in farming marginal‐quality land; the houses were damp, cold, smoky and dark; they were overcrowded although, mainly because of the high infant‐mortality rate, families were not large.
Recent excavations carried out in the Iberian Peninsula have revealed some skeletons with arrow wounds at sites dating from the neolithic to the Bronze Age. The discovery of burials in which the human remains have not been moved and the methodical nature of the excavation have made an in situ examination possible, and have confirmed this evidence as testimony of violent action, of which there are many other examples all over Europe. Four cases of silex arrowheads found in different human bones from the excavation of the hypogeum of Longar (Navarra, Spain), carried out between 1991 and 1993, are described.
Osteoarthritis in human skeletons from archaeological sites is common but there have been very few convincing descriptions of rheumatoid arthritis. We present a case of a near symmetrical erosive polyarthropathy in a medieval skeleton which we believe fulfils the criteria for typical rheumatoid arthritis.
The skeletal remains of unidentifiable persons, recovered in recent years from the churchyard adjoining the House of Correction in Oslo, included 91 instances in which the maxillae and/or mandibles had been preserved, and these were examined. The length of the apical translucent zone in unsectioned teeth and the amount of secondary dentine deposit have been regarded as two of the most reliable factors in odontological age estimation. This study has used two methods, each using one of these factors, on single‐rooted teeth from, respectively, 78 and 76 individuals. The distribution of age at death, as estimated from the two dental methods and from anthropological criteria, was then compared with the distribution of age at death of 380 individuals recorded in the church register for the House of Correction. Age calculations from secondary dentine, measured indirectly on dental radiographs of premolars, and estimates based on anthropological criteria both seemed to approximate to the chronological age distribution better than age estimates based on the length of the apical translucent zone. Statistical analyses indicated that all three methods of age estimation were significantly different (p<0.05). When compared with the church register, each method assigned a lower percentage of individuals to the younger and older age‐groups and a higher percentage to those in the middle. No statistical difference could be found between the age distribution from the church register and estimates from either anthropological criteria or dental radiographs; but when age estimates based on these two latter methods were compared, 39.5 per cent differed by more than 10 years.
In this study, DNA was extracted from human bones recovered from a 2000‐year‐old archaeological site located in northern Kyushu in southwestern Japan. Part of the mitochondrial control region was amplified by a polymerase chain reaction. Mitochondrial DNA sequences determined from 55 individuals were classified into 16 different types. Comparing the location of the burial site and the sequence types, people buried at separate sites were shown to have different maternal lineages. Our palaeomolecular biological findings strengthen the opinion that social differentiation began during this period in Japan, a fact that is generally accepted among archaeologists. The results of this study show that intensive analysis of ancient DNA from archaeological sites is a useful tool for investigating the social systems of vanished populations.
Dental attrition is positively related to ageing and has often been used to determine age at death of animals and prehistoric/historic humans. A newly designed molar‐attrition‐scoring standard was applied to a protohistoric skeletal sample, the Arikara (N = 143) from the North American Plains. Several criteria are used in producing a molar tooth crown wear (MTCW) score. These include: (i) the size of enamel wear facets, (ii) the amount of dentine and secondary dentine exposure, (iii) the height of the tooth, (iv) the enamel rim thickness, and (v) the amount of pulp‐cavity exposure in the advanced stages. Age‐at‐death estimates were generated from ordinary least‐squares (OLS) analysis, with estimated age regressed independently on the total molar attrition score (TMAS), mean molar‐1 tooth crown wear (ȲM1TCW), mean molar‐2 tooth crown wear (ȲM2TCW), and mean molar‐3 tooth crown wear (ȲM3TCW). In all analyses (with the exception of the third molar), the coefficient of determination (r2) revealed a strong relationship between molar attrition and age. Multiple‐regression analysis revealed a significant sex difference in molar‐attrition rates. Besides intercept and slope differences, the female scatter showed greater molar attrition variation than the male scatter. There was no statistical difference between mean upper molar attrition score (UMAS) and lower molar attrition score (LMAS). There was no significant difference in molar attrition rates by side, and side by molar tooth.
A separation across the acromion is found in 3–8 per cent of adults and can be fibrous union of a fracture, or non‐union of the epiphysis. The only descriptions, based on dissected specimens, derive from the last century and show that the separations are pseudarthroses, or intra‐acromial joints, with synovial cavities. Examples occur of double epiphyses with two joints. Eleven skeletalized examples, two bilateral and two through the acromio‐clavicular articular facet, are described. The moderately congruent surfaces of separation showed features consistent with pseudarthrosis but gave no indication of any consistent type of movement in the joints. It is concluded that all were probably due to non‐union of the epiphysis although, especially as they occurred in a population in which injuries were commonplace, some could have derived from fractures. One specimen showed evidence of derangement of the shoulder joint, with impingement of the greater tuberosity of the humerus against the undersurface of the free part of the acromion producing eburnated attrition facets.
The observed variation in the number of cross‐striations between Striae of Retzius in a sample of teeth from juveniles buried in the crypts of a London City church is presented. Estimates of intra‐and inter‐observer error in making such cross‐striation counts are discussed, together with implications for the estimation of age from perikymata counts on the tooth surface.
A human skeleton of the Okhotsk Culture from the Hamanaka‐2 site of Rebun Island, northern part of Hokkaido, was found with abnormally large deposits of dental calculus, especially on the right upper 2nd and 3rd molars. This may relate to the early loss of the corresponding right lower molars. Root apex cementum hyperplasia and resorption of alveolar bone due to periodontal disease were also observed; these may have been associated with the calculus. The severe dental calculus and other diseases observed appear to have nothing to do with the subsistence pattern and ethnological background of the Okhotsk Culture, but rather with the individual's poor oral hygiene and digestive dysfunction.
An inhibition enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay using monoclonal antibodies has been used to confirm the diagnosis of IgA type multiple myeloma in a small fragment (< 10 g) of cranium from a medieval female. Further testing by sodium dodecyl sulphate‐polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and immunoblotting showed that the IgA was mainly polymeric, suggesting that the individual would have suffered from a hyperviscosity syndrome. This is the first time that immunological assays have been used to diagnose multiple myeloma in ancient human tissue and have permitted speculation on associated clinical symptoms.
Microradiographs of early French medieval skeletal material diagnosed with leprosy show specific microscopic alterations, including isolated destruction, isolated bone formation and a combination of both processes, generally referred to as concentric remodelling. New bone deposition on the tibial diaphysis appears to follow the same processes. These observations parallel Coutelier's descriptions of bone remodelling observed in cases of amputated bones from leprous patients.
Histomorphometric semi‐automatic image analysis of cross‐sections of 101 femoral diaphyseal bone sections were performed to reconsider to what degree osteon remodelling in the outer cortex is affected by age. The data were analysed statistically using the generalized least squares method. The model estimation, which includes the covariance matrix of four single equation residuals, improves the accuracy of age determination. The standard deviation, however, of age prediction remains 12.58 years. An experimental split of the data was made in order to demonstrate that the use of subgroups gives a false impression of higher precision of age determination. The present study demonstrates that determination of age at death through microscopic bone morphometry is considerably less precise than generally stated in the literature.