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J Anthropol Sci. 2011;89:109-25. doi: 10.4436/jass.89007. Epub 2011 Mar 15.

Age-associated bone loss and intraskeletal variability in the Imperial Romans.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Davidson College, PO Box 6934, Davidson, North Carolina 28036-6934, USA.


An Imperial Roman sample from the Isola Sacra necropolis (100-300 A.D.) offered an opportunity to histologically examine bone loss and intraskeletal variability in an urban archaeological population. Rib and femur samples were analyzed for static indices of bone remodeling and measures of bone mass. The Imperial Romans experienced normal age-associated bone loss via increased intracortical porosity and endosteal expansion, with females exhibiting greater bone loss and bone turnover rates than in males. Life events such as menopause and lactation coupled with cultural attitudes and practices regarding gender and food may have led to increased bone loss in females. Remodeling dynamics differ between the rib and femur and the higher remodeling rates in the rib may be attributed to different effective age of the adult compacta or loading environment. This study demonstrates that combining multiple methodologies to examine bone loss is necessary to shed light on the biocultural factors that influence bone mass and bone loss.

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