A juvenile with compromised osteogenesis provides insights into past hunter-gatherer lives

Int J Paleopathol. 2018 Mar;20:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2017.11.002. Epub 2017 Nov 21.

Abstract

The Late Archaic in northeastern North America (4500-2800 B.P.) pre-dates reliance on pottery and domesticated plants. It is thought to reflect a highly mobile, seasonal migratory foraging/hunting regimen. A juvenile skeleton with pervasive bone wasting and fragile jaws from the Hind Site (AdHk-1), ca. 3000 B.P., southwestern Ontario, provides evidence of the social context of her family group, including aspects of mobility and food management. The well-preserved bones and teeth are considered in bioarchaeological context. Radiographic, osteometric and cross-sectional geometric approaches to assessing musculoskeletal function are presented, plus differential diagnosis of the bone wasting condition. All bones of the probable female (aged approx. 16yr) show stunting and wasting. Wedged lower vertebral bodies, porous trabeculae, undeveloped bicondylar angles (femur) and abnormally low cortical long bone mass are consistent with chronically reduced ambulation. Few teeth remain in the dramatically resorbed alveoli; slight tooth wear and substantial calculus suggest a modified (soft) diet. Osteogenesis imperfecta type IV is the most probable etiology. The extended survival of this juvenile who may never have walked reflects collective care. The case provides evidence of a past lifeway that appears to have been organized around logistic mobility, including occupational stability and food storage.

Keywords: Bicondylar angle; Bioarchaeology of care; Ontario late archaic; Osteogenesis imperfecta; Pediatric osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Age Determination by Skeleton
  • Age Determination by Teeth
  • Body Remains / pathology
  • Bone Density
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Burial / history
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Ontario
  • Osteogenesis Imperfecta / history
  • Osteogenesis Imperfecta / pathology
  • Paleopathology*
  • Sex Determination by Skeleton
  • Social Behavior / history
  • Tooth / diagnostic imaging

Substances

  • Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Type IV