Age changes in the external dimensions of adult bone

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Abstract

Humeri from a large, ossuary-derived sample are used to demonstrate that considerable size variability is introduced to transverse skeletal measurements when young adults and older adults are pooled. Humeri from young adults (epiphyseal lines still visible, N ≈ 25) are smaller in transverse dimensions than those of older adults (N ≈ 300). Among left humeri, only shaft diameters demonstrate statistically significant differences. The right humeri, however, show statistically significant differences for six of the eight measurements. The increased size of the older adult humeri reflects the fact that appositional growth continues throughout adulthood. The more pronounced differences seen on the right side probably reflect developing dominance asymmetry. Recognition of this source of intrasample variability will influence the choice of skeletal measurements used for population comparisons and/or indicators of robusticity.

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