International Journal of Anthropology

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 41-55

First online:

Activity-induced skeletal markers in historical anthropological material

  • Gy. PálfiAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, József Attila UniversityCentre Archéologique du Var
  • , O. DutourAffiliated withLaboratoire d'Anthropologie Biologique, Faculté de Médecine, Université d'Aix-Marseille IILaboratoire d'Anthropologie et de Préhistoire, Université de Provence

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A new research way of palaeopathology has recently opened: it concerns the study of the impact of the human activities on the skeleton and the reconstitution of these activities. Being interested essentially in the activity-induced skeletal markers, we carried out this study on 354 human skeletal remains. The Hungarian series represents a larger sample (263 skeletons from the 10th century; collections of the Department of Anthropology, József Attila University, Szeged, Hungary). We considered also as comparison series a collection of 91 skeletons dating from the Late Antiquity (4th century A.D.) from Provence (France), stored in the collections of the Centre Archéologique du Var (Toulon, France). The present work is based on the results of a general palaeopathological analysis with a particular attention to the possible activity-linked microtraumatic lesions.

Articular and periarticular markers of activity were detected as secondary degenerative joint diseases and mechanical enthesopathies. In spite of the high rate of non-specific cases, the alterations reveal several possible activities, historically and archaeologically well documented as riding on horse-back in the Hungarian series. The sexual inegality in the distribution of the macrotraumatic lesions (male predominance of the fractures and sprains in the Hungarian series) reveals also some information about the activities of the ancient Hungarians.

Key words

Paleopathology skeletal markers of activity microtraumas Hungary France