The goal of this research is to study trabecular bone microarchitecture during growth and development, producing new quantitative and structural knowledge about the development and remodeling of normal trabecular structure as demonstrated in a subadult archaeological skeletal sample from the Late Prehistoric Ohio Valley. Cancellous bone microarchitecture has a predictable relationship to functional and external loading patterns applied throughout ontogeny and maturity. This factor makes it potentially attractive for the bioarchaeological study of long-term loading history reflecting physical activity and human behavior combined with growth and development. Relatively little research has been directed toward the structure of and variation in trabecular bone during ontogeny, creating a deficiency in the foundation upon which trabecular bone adaptation can be used bioarchaeological inferences. This research project tests hypotheses characterizing the temporal sequence and variation in trabecular bone volume fraction and degree of anisotropy as a reflection of growth and development, as associated with the timing and acquisition of normal functional activities (crawling, initial bipedal gait, and independent physical activities), and as associated with changing body mass.

    The Late Prehistoric archaeological site SunWatch (33-My-57) is a Fort Ancient village on the floodplain of the Great Miami River in Dayton, Ohio. Excavations have demonstrated a circular, organized, agricultural settlement characterized by a central plaza with a central post complex and concentric rings of burials, storage/trash pits, and wattle and daub, thatch-roofed houses.  A skeletal sample of 40 subadult proximal tibiae has been selected from 109 subadult skeletons based on preservation, absence of pathological conditions, and dental developmental stages. Four age groupings are used (0.0 –24 years). Analysis consists of nondestructive microCT scanning of the proximal metaphyseal tibia demonstrating the microarchitectural trabecular structure; quantitative 3-D structural analyses using finite element modeling will develop structural parameters (bone volume fraction BV/TV and degree of anisotropy DA). The expectations of this study are to provide quantitative morphological and scan-image data on sequential ontogenetic changes in human trabecular bone structure in a single archaeological skeletal sample from the Late Prehistoric Ohio Valley, highlighting the dynamic relationships between growth/development, general functional activities, and trabecular distribution/architecture.

    Initial data consist of proof-of-method test scans performed on two subadult tibial samples of differing ages from an Ohio Late Prehistoric population. The proximal tibiae were scanned with the HRXCT scanner at the CT/UT (University of Texas at Austin) facility and structural analysis (Quant3D) performed; distinct differences in BV/TV and DA are observed. The results are demonstrated in figures 1-4: Figures 1 and 2- (sample 409, 4 y/o), thin relatively densely-packed trabeculae (higher BV/TV = 0.45) and two planar orientation (low DA) the strongest being closer to superior- inferior; Figures 3 and 4- (sample 401, 8 y/o), thicker, but relatively less dense (lower BV/TV= 0.24), more aligned trabeculae in a predominantly anterior-posterior orientation (higher DA). These scans indicate that age-related changes in trabecular bone volume and anisotropy from subadult archaeological remains can be demonstrated by the proposed methodology and that a temporal sequence of ontogenetic trabecular morphological change, based on scan data, can be quantified.


Figure 1: Scan slice just distal to proximal epiphyseal plate.


Figure 2: Quant3D representing multi-planar trabecular orientation.


Figure 3: Scan slice just distal to proximal epiphyseal plate.


Figure 4: Quant3D representing anisotropic anterior-posterior aligned trabeculae.

    This study represents a natural experiment of human ontogeny, mechanical loading, and trabecular bone. The intellectual merit centers on the potential of using recent advances in mechanobiological modeling, non-invasive micro-imaging techniques, and finite element computational methodologies to advance understanding of socially structured human behavior, environmental influences, and skeletal response during ontogeny in ancient subadult populations. While this study is focused on the problem of ontogenetic changes in trabecular bone, the applicability of the project design can form the foundation for expanded comparative studies in physical anthropology, skeletal biology, growth and development, and bioarchaeology.

    Cancellous bone analysis is situated within the broad framework of research in musculoskeletal biology with society-wide implications in the areas of skeletal adaptation in varying genetic and environmental settings, serious public health conditions (osteoarthritis and osteoporosis), and skeletal regenerative and implant investigations. This study enhances the infrastructure of research by incorporating recent technological and methodological advances, fostering a multidisciplinary approach towards understanding skeletal biology, and augmenting relevance to biocultural studies of ancient and recent populations.

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