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Keywords:

  • Spitalfields;
  • biomechanics;
  • osteoporosis;
  • paleopathology;
  • metacarpal

Abstract

The effects of age and occupation on cortical bone in a group of adult males from the 18th–19th century AD skeletal collection from Christ Church Spitalfields, London, were investigated. Cortical bone was monitored using metacarpal radiogrammetry. Individual age at death was known exactly from coffin plates. Occupation for individuals was known from historical sources. Results showed that continued periosteal apposition was evident throughout adult life, but from middle age onwards this was outstripped by about 2:1 by endosteal resorption, so that there was net thinning of cortical bone. The rate of cortical thinning resembled that seen in modern European males. Cross-sectional properties, as measured by second moments of area, bore no relationship to occupation. The results may suggest that, firstly, patterns of loss of cortical bone have remained unchanged in males for at least two centuries in Britain, and secondly, that biomechanical analyses of metacarpal cortical bone may be rather insensitive indicators of intensity of manual activity. Am J Phys Anthropol 116:34–44, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.