Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Phys Anthropol. 2016 Jan;159(1):106-15. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22835. Epub 2015 Aug 21.

Patterns of activity adaptation in humeral trabecular bone in Neolithic humans and present-day people.

Author information

Paleoanthropology, Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, Eberhard Karls University, Rümelinstraße 23, Tübingen, 72070, Germany.
Landesamt Für Denkmalpflege, Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart, Stromeyersdorfstraße 3, Konstanz, 78467, Germany.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany.



The annual turnover rate of trabecular bone by far exceeds that of cortical bone and, therefore, is very sensitive to its daily loading regime. Here we test the hypothesis that the study of the trabecular bone architecture of the human humerus is able to differentiate between different habitual manual activities.


For this purpose, we compared the trabecular architecture of the humeral head in a Neolithic population to that of a sample of contemporary Europeans using micro-computed tomography (microCT). We defined in each specimen a spherical volume of interest with a diameter of 57.5 ± 2.5% of the maximal diameter of the humeral head to metrically analyze the bulk of humeral head trabecular architecture. We subsequently quantified the trabecular architectures in the VOIs, measuring seven standard 3D-morphometric parameters, and used univariate and multivariate statistical analyses for comparisons within and between populations.


Univariate statistical analysis showed significant differences in a combination of 3D-morphometric parameters. A principal components analysis of the 3D-morphometrics of the trabecular architectures separated the Neolithic from the contemporary samples on the basis of differences in their gross trabecular architecture, including differences in the bone volume fraction (BV/TV), the number of trabeculae per unit length (Tb N), and the distance between trabeculae (Tb Sp).


We interpret the significant differences found in the humeral trabecular bone of the Neolithic and the contemporary group as likely reflecting the distinct manual working routines. The trabecular bone configuration in the Neolithic sample shows presumably functional signatures of prehistoric subsistence techniques and activity levels.


humerus; structural adaptation; trabecular architecture

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center