Publication date: August 2016
Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 72
Author(s): Anna E. Spinek, Wiesław Lorkiewicz, Joanna Mietlińska, Ewa Sewerynek, Arkadiusz Kłys, David Caramelli, Elżbieta Żądzińska
Paleopathological studies suggest different patterns of age-related bone loss and osteoporosis in past populations compared with those of modern times. However, the observed interpopulational differences are often difficult to interpret due to considerable environmental and biological heterogeneity between populations from which the analyzed skeletal samples come. In the present paper, we try to determine whether there was a directional trend in occurrence of this phenomenon in the past as a consequence of changes in life conditions over the last six thousand years of human history.
The study involved 276 female skeletons from four geographically homogeneous populations dated from Neolithic to early modern times coming from a region located in present-day Poland. Bone mineral density and bone fractures were examined for all the skeletons. Polymorphisms of the vitamin D receptor gene associated with low BMD were analyzed using PCR in individuals randomly selected from all of the studied skeletal series.
In all the analyzed populations, BMD was found to significantly decrease with age. The only statistically significant interpopulational differences were found for the Neolithic skeletal series, with females in all age groups exhibiting higher BMD values and no osteoporotic fractures compared with the historical populations.
The much better bone maintenance in Neolithic women may have resulted from a favorable confluence of high levels of physical activity, exposure to UV radiation, and a diet with an appropriate calcium intake.