The Importance of Considering Fibular Robusticity When Inferring the Mobility Patterns of Past Populations

  • Vitale S. Sparacello
  • Damiano MarchiEmail author
  • Colin N. Shaw


In this chapter we investigate the lower limb structural rigidity (using cross-sectional geometric properties of the diaphyseal midshaft) within a sample of 124 individuals from the Late Upper Paleolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age from Italy, Medieval Germany, and twenty-first Century Britain (long distance runners, field hockey players, and sedentary controls). Late Upper Paleolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age samples were settled in rugged areas, whereas the other samples inhabited plain areas. The aim of this study is to assess whether fibular diaphyseal properties reflect mobility patterns or terrain properties in past populations. Both fibular rigidity and relative fibular rigidity ratio (fibula/tibia) have been analyzed.

Results reveal that Late Upper Paleolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age samples show high fibular rigidity and have values of relative fibular rigidity that are most similar to modern hockey players. The relative fibular diaphyseal rigidity of hockey players has been previously explained as the consequence of their dynamic and repetitive change of direction. Late Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic individuals are thought to have been highly terrestrially mobile, while Iron Age people were probably fairly sedentary. However, all of the three groups lived in areas of uneven terrain. We conclude that fibular rigidity and relative fibular rigidity are influenced by factors that increase foot eversion/inversion such as frequent directional changes and uneven terrain. The results of this study suggest that inclusion of the fibula provides a valuable additional perspective that complements traditional predictions of mobility patterns based on the femur or the tibia alone.


Fibula Tibia Bioarchaeology Cross-sectional geometry Terrain conformation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vitale S. Sparacello
    • 1
    • 2
  • Damiano Marchi
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Colin N. Shaw
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of PisaPisaItaly
  4. 4.Evolutionary Studies InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  5. 5.McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  6. 6.PAVE Research Group, Department of Archaeology and AnthropologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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