Busy Bones Osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal markers as evidence of physical activity and social differentiation in post-medieval the Netherlands.

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Busy Bones Osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal markers as evidence of physical activity and social differentiation in post-medieval the Netherlands.

Type: Master thesis
Title: Busy Bones Osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal markers as evidence of physical activity and social differentiation in post-medieval the Netherlands.
Author: Palmer, Jessica
Issue Date: 2012-09-07
Keywords: Osteoarthritis
Musculoskeletal stress markers
Middenbeemster
Osteoarchaeology
post-medieval
enthesopathy
Abstract: From the Dutch cemetery of Middenbeemster, individuals from the rural community of the Beemster were excavated, mostly dating to the nineteenth century. The Beemster had an agriculture-based economy, focused on dairy farming. It was a relative latecomer to modernization and farming machinery. This dissertation establishes levels of physical activity and associated social differentiation in the Beemster, based upon skeletal markers of activity in the upper limbs. These are osteoarthritis (OA) and musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM’s). OA is a joint disease, and MSM’s are the sites at which muscles attach to bone, whose morphology may be indicative of muscle use and strain. The high prevalence of OA established that this population engaged in generally strenuous physical labor, more so than contemporaneous Dutch settlements. Although OA severity increased with age, its prevalence did not, indicating that joint-related wear was already occurring in young adults. MSM’s suggested a gendered division of labor. Males had more pronounced MSM’s in all sites but the triceps brachi. Males were especially involved in activities exercising the biceps and brachioradialis, as these showed the highest sexual dimorphism. In general, the pectoralis major muscle was highly pronounced, whereas the multifunctional deltoid muscle was the least developed. There was a clear positive correlation of MSM’s with age. The high symmetry between upper limbs in OA and MSM results also points to strenuous physical activity. Two young adult females had low scores for OA and MSM’s, suggesting they led less strenuous lives and could have belonged to a more elite class. The study also evaluated the usefulness of the methods. Both need further study to become reliable, especially MSM research which is in its infancy. Osteoarthritis was concluded to be most useful on an inter-population level. There was a very low correlation between OA and MSM’s, thus combining them to reconstruct activity in past populations is of limited use. Further standardization of scoring methods is also necessary for both skeletal activity markers. Overall, this research contributed to our understanding of OA and MSM’s as activity markers, both separately and combined, while also providing new data on activity levels in a post-medieval Dutch population.
Supervisor: Waters, Andrea L.
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology (Master)
Specialisation: Human osteology and funerary archaeology
ECTS Credits: 20
Evaluation: Recommended
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/19381
 

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