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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 455–467 | Cite as

Cortical bone loss in a sample of human skeletons from the Muge Shell middens

  • Cláudia Umbelino
  • Francisco CurateEmail author
  • Andreia Perinha
  • Teresa Ferreira
  • Eugénia Cunha
  • Nuno Bicho
Original Paper

Abstract

The Muge shell middens of Cabeço da Arruda, Cabeço da Amoreira and Moita do Sebastião (central Portugal) have been key sites of archaeological research for 150 years, possibly working as residential sites occupied by semi-sedentary communities during the final Mesolithic. The purposes of this article include the biocultural assessment of metacarpal cortical bone fragility and its associations with age at death, sex and osteoporotic fractures in the Portuguese Mesolithic, as well as a diachronic comparison of cortical bone health in Mesolithic (N = 34) and modern reference (N = 219) samples. Cortical bone at the Muge shell middens displays age and sex-specific trajectories of periosteal apposition and endosteal bone loss, most likely associated with hormonal and behavioural/cultural influences. Metacarpal endocortical bone loss seems to increase with age at death in females, with a simultaneous expansion of the diaphysis. The overall pattern of cortical bone health is similar to the pattern observed in a reference skeletal collection, but elderly women from Muge seem to lose less cortical bone than late twentieth century counterparts from Coimbra. Two older males exhibited vertebral compression fractures, but only one is possibly related with bone fragility.

Keywords

Metacarpal radiogrammetry Medullary width Diaphysis total width Osteoporotic fractures Mesolithic 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Dr. Miguel Ramalho for allowing us to study the Muge skeletal material housed at Museu do Instituto Geológico e Mineiro; the Serviço de Imagiologia do Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra; Célia Gonçalves for the image of the geographical location of the Muge shell middens; Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (grant no. SFRH/BPD/74015/2010); and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments that greatly improved this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cláudia Umbelino
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francisco Curate
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Andreia Perinha
    • 3
  • Teresa Ferreira
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
  • Eugénia Cunha
    • 3
    • 5
  • Nuno Bicho
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Centre for Anthropology and Health, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human BehaviorUniversity of AlgarveAlgarvePortugal
  3. 3.Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  4. 4.Departamento de Ciências da VidaUniversidade de CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  5. 5.Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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