Age-related variation in limb bone diaphyseal structure among Inuit foragers from Point Hope, northern Alaska
- 190 Downloads
Age-related deterioration of limb bone diaphyseal structure is documented among precontact Inuit foragers from northern Alaska. These findings challenge the concept that bone loss and fracture susceptibility among modern Inuit stem from their transition away from a physically demanding traditional lifestyle toward a more sedentary Western lifestyle.
Skeletal fragility is rare among foragers and other traditional-living societies, likely due to their high physical activity levels. Among modern Inuit, however, severe bone loss and fractures are apparently common. This is possibly because of recent Western influences and increasing sedentism. To determine whether compromised bone structure and strength among the Inuit are indeed aberrant for a traditional-living group, data were collected on age-related variation in limb bone diaphyseal structure from a group predating Western influences.
Skeletons of 184 adults were analyzed from the Point Hope archaeological site. Mid-diaphyseal structure was measured in the humerus, radius, ulna, femur, and tibia using CT. Structural differences were assessed between young, middle-aged, and old individuals.
In all bones examined, both females and males exhibited significant age-related reductions in bone quantity. With few exceptions, total bone (periosteal) area did not significantly increase between young and old age in either sex, nor did geometric components of bending rigidity (second moments of area).
While the physically demanding lifestyles of certain traditional-living groups may protect against bone loss and fracture susceptibility, this is not the case among the Inuit. It remains possible, however, that Western characteristics of the modern Inuit lifestyle exacerbate age-related skeletal deterioration.
KeywordsEskimo Hunter-gatherer Osteopenia Osteoporosis Physical activity Westernization
We thank D.H. Thomas, I. Tattersall, and G. Garcia at the American Museum of Natural History for facilitating analysis of the Point Hope skeletons; M. Tweedie for assistance with transporting skeletons for analysis; undergraduate anthropology students for help with data collection; B. Maley for providing morphological data from the skulls for sex assignment; and N. Blegen, L. Cowgill, O. Pearson, and M. Gomberg for critical references. We are grateful to B. Schipf, M. Axoso, and C. Mazzerese for unstinting assistance with CT scanning. Funding was provided by Stony Brook University.
Conflict of interest
- 1.Nesse RM, Williams GC (1994) Why we get sick: the new science of Darwinian medicine. Times Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 2.Lieberman DE (2013) The story of the human body: evolution, health, and disease. Pantheon, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 18.Mazess RB, Mather W (1975) Bone mineral content in Canadian Eskimos. Hum Biol 47:45–63Google Scholar
- 21.Larsen H, Rainey FG (1948) Ipiutak and the Arctic whale hunting culture. Anthropol Pap Am Mus 42:1–276Google Scholar
- 22.Rainey FG (1947) The whale hunters of Tigara. Anthropol Pap Am Mus 41:230–283Google Scholar
- 23.Burch ES (1981) The traditional Eskimo hunters of Point Hope, Alaska: 1800–1875. North Slope Borough, Point Hope, AKGoogle Scholar
- 26.White TD, Black MT, Folkens PA (2011) Human osteology, 3rd edn. Elsevier Academic Press, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
- 32.Laughlin SB (1985) Skeletal aging patterns of Tigara and Ipiutak Eskimo of Point Hope, Alaska. (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Connecticut, StorrsGoogle Scholar