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Thread: Age determination on skeletons from Hallstat period page

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    Lewis's Avatar
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    Age determination on skeletons from Hallstat period

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    I just noticed that Mark had a blog post wondering whether bone-density was much used for age-determination in skeletons.

    Here are the methods used in one study on skeletons from Hallstat Iron Age sites in Bavaria:

    The inhumation and cremation burials from two tumulus cemeteries of the Hallstatt period ... In the case of the skeleton of an adult a combined method of age-determination ... took the following four factors into account ... 1. the stage of closure of the endocranial suture, 2. changes in the symphyseal surface of the pubis, 3. and 4. changes in the structure of the spongiosa of the proximal humerus epiphysis and femur epiphysis. In addition the degree of abrasion of the teeth can be taken into account. ...
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1781203

    So four there (plus a look at the teeth), none of which is bone density. The study doesn't seem to be unusual in its methods.

    The closure of endocranial sutures is an interesting one. It's been much used but is a highly complex matter and seems subject to genetic and environmental factors (mechanical stress, e.g. from chewing, being one):

    http://soar.wichita.edu/dspace/bitst...0/1/t07095.pdf

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    Interesting! Thanks for sharing. I had never heard that about the cranial sutures before.

    On a related note, I wonder how accurate the teeth wear is as a measure -- depends on what they're eating locally, eh?

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    As you say, as far I know. Millstone grit in bread is often mentioned as wearing down the teeth.

    However, two Homo heidelbergensis teeth found at Boxgrove are described as "heavily worn" by Chris Stringer in Homo Britannicus and they were more likely eating meat and perhaps vegetable material. Under the microscope he says the teeth can also be seen to be scratched and pitted - this seems to have come about by the creature holding the food in its teeth and slicing it off with a flint blade. (The direction of the scratches shows they were right-handed!). The bases of these teeth are also covered with tartar deposits, which go right down to the roots, indicating they must have been "partly exposed in life".

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    Neat. Probably some bone-gnawing in there too.

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