Adaptations to humeral torsion in medieval Britain


  • Jill A. Rhodes

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708
    • Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Box 90383, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0383
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Adaptations to the humeral torsion angle have been identified in the professional throwing athlete. This movement pattern increases the humeral torsion angle, and also increases the extent of external rotation movements in the dominant, throwing limb when compared with the nondominant limb. The purpose of this paper is to test the hypothesis that the humeral torsion angle is an adaptation to upper limb use. This project examines the humeral torsion angle in a number of medieval British populations, as well as a modern cadaver-based sample. The results identify significant differences in the humeral torsion angle both between and within male (P < 0.001, ANOVA) and female (P < 0.014, ANOVA) populations, although the results are not consistent with expected behavior patterns. Statistically significant differences between males and females within the same site were identified in 2 of the 5 samples examined. The mean level of bilateral asymmetry does not approach that reported for the professional throwing athlete. However, a number of individuals have high levels of asymmetry in excess of that identified in the professional throwing athlete. This analysis demonstrates the need for individual rather than population-based analyses, as the heterogeneity within population samples obscures individual variation in activity patterns. The diversity within British medieval society and a lack of specific known behaviors prevent further identification of the functional significance of the humeral torsion angle within the archaeological record examined here. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.