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Keywords:

  • juvenile bone mineral density;
  • cortical index;
  • stress indicators;
  • medieval childhood growth parameters

Abstract

In this study the radii of 34 juveniles from Wharram Percy, a British medieval site, were measured for bone mineral density (BMD) using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in order to investigate evidence of stress including Harris lines, cribra orbitalia and deficient cortical index, which is usually attributed to poor nutrition. BMD measurements are used in modern children to assess growth and development and generally correlate with linear growth. Only rare chronic illnesses affect bone mineral accrual in children. Radiographs of the radii were examined to assess cortical index and of the femora and radii for Harris lines. The results indicate that BMD is well correlated with dental age and linear growth, but is poorly correlated with cortical index. The variability in cortical index indicates the influence of environmental factors. There is no relationship between BMD and the presence or absence of Harris lines or cribra orbitalia. Thus, despite obvious evidence of skeletal stress in this juvenile population, bone was not under-mineralised and bone mineral accrual proceeded normally with growth. This reinforces the conclusion that cortical index is a more sensitive indicator of environmental stress than either Harris lines or cribra orbitalia, and may be compared with BMD measurements to assess the effect of stress on growth. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.