Reconstructing the manual activities of a fully documented individual of advanced age

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Dokumentart: BookPart
Date: 2023-06
Language: English
Other Keywords: muscle attachments
old age
musculoskeletal stress
precise 3D quantification
collection Basel-Spitalfriedhof
hand entheses
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Reconstructing habitual physical activities in the past constitutes a fundamental objective of anthropological sciences. The morphology of muscle attachment sites (entheses) is widely utilized for this purpose, but their reliability has been previously questioned due to important methodological downsides of traditional methodological approaches. Recently, our group in Tübingen put forth a novel methodology relying on the multivariate analysis of precisely obtained three-dimensional measurements. The accuracy of this method in reconstructing activity using hand entheses was demonstrated using a mid-19th century sample with uniquely detailed long-term occupational documentation (Basel Collection, Basel, Switzerland). Nevertheless, all individuals used in our previous research were relatively young (below 48 years old or less), while the extensive effects of old age on entheseal morphology are widely demonstrated in the literature. Consequently, the applicability of entheseal methods on individuals whose age is either advanced or uncertain is currently questionable. This pilot case study focuses on an old individual originating from the same population (STJ-1734) as our comparative sample from Basel, in order to evaluate the efficiency of our method for old individuals. Even though the resulting entheseal patterns were in agreement with the individual’s lifestyle, they also seemed influenced by the presence of arthritic lesions in the thumb’s metacarpophalangeal joint. The results of this pilot case-study suggest that the activities of an old individual can potentially be accurately reconstructed using our novel 3D methodology. Nevertheless, researchers should always take into consideration that the resulting patterns may be biased by pathological conditions which may also not always be traceable on skeletal remains.

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