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Keywords:

  • Aging;
  • Cortical bone;
  • Eskimo;
  • Pueblo;
  • Arikara;
  • Osteoporosis

Abstract

Age-related thinning of cortical bone was investigated in archaeological populations of Eskimos, Pueblos, and Arikaras. Medial-lateral cortical thickness was measured on radiographs of humerus and femur, and thickness of the anterior femoral cortex was measured directly on samples taken for histologic study. Maximum length of the bones was used to calculate indices of relative cortical thickness, in order to minimize differences due to body size and build.

Bone loss in the humerus begins before middle age in all three populations and, except for Eskimo males, the same is true of the anterior femoral cortex. In general, overall female loss of cortical bone amounts to two or three times that of the males, and in the case of the humerus and the anterior cortex of the femur, this difference is evident by middle age. The weight-bearing femoral medial-lateral cortex shows less sexual difference but has the greatest number of statistically significant differences between populations and the greatest contrast between populations in pattern of loss with age. It appears that of the cortical regions studied this is the area upon which environmental factors have the greatest effect, whereas areas more subject to tensile stress, the humerus and anterior femoral cortex, are less affected by these factors.