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Transylvanian Case Study in Non-Specific Stress: Máréfalva, Sir-11

  • Archaeological Techniques and Research Center


Osteological report of one juvenile individual, 16 - 19 years old at death, with specific focus on non-specific indicators of stress such as cribra orbitalia and liner enamel hypoplasia. Presented at the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists COD Undergrad Research Symposium (April 19 - 22, 2017). This work is based on research conducted at the ArchaeoTek Juvenile Osteology Research Workshop during the 2016 season.
Transylvanian Case Study in Non-Specific Stress:
Máréfalva, Sir-11
Maura Griffith1, Jessica Filipeli2, Jonathan Bethard3, Andre Gonciar4, Zsolt Nyárádi 5
1Trinity College, Hartford CT 2Metropolitan State University of Denver, Denver CO 3University South Florida, Tampa FL
4ArchaeoTek 5Haáz Rezsö Museum, Székelyudvarhely, Romania
Materials and Methods
Literature Cited
Historical Context (Popa-Gorjanu, 2012)
Throughout the middle ages and
Early Modern era Transylvania
underwent sociopolitical stress
Ownership of the region passed
from Romania, to Hungary, the
Ottoman Empire, to the Habsburgs
Religion and status fluctuated
during this time among Romanians,
Székelys, Hungarians, and Saxons
Site Information
Máréfalva, Harghita County,
Máréfalva church underwent three
different building phases
Sir-11 belongs to Gothic Period (12th
16th century) of site
Buried in a coffin in an east to west
orientation, which is suggestive of a
Christian burial
Collection Details
Sir-11 (grave 11) excavated 7/10/2009
Sex Estimation
Pubic symphysis and auricular surface were assessed following Todd and
Suchey-Brooks, Meindel and Lovejoy (Buikstra & Ubelaker, 1994)
Age Estimation
Tooth development (M3 present, though not fully developed) (Ubelaker, 1989;
AlQahanti et al., 2010)
Epiphyseal fusion (Buikstra & Ubelaker, 1994)
Auricular surface following Meindel and Lovejoy (Buikstra & Ubelaker, 1994)
Stature Estimation
Stature estimation using femoral and humeral measurements calculated
following Trotter, 1970
Linear Enamel Hypoplasia
Age at time of linear enamel hypoplasia formation calculated following
Goodman and Rose, 1990
Figure 3. Skeletal inventory of remains from Sir-11.Figure 4. Detail showing linear enamel hypoplasia (arrow).
Figure 5. Detail showing cribra orbitalia (arrow).
16 19 year old female presented several different indicators of non-specific
These indicators cannot be attributed to a specific cause, however combined
can be used to make inferences about her environment
Factors such as population growth, unequal access to resources, or
contaminated water can all lead to metabolic stress (Walker et al.,
Walker et al., 2006 outlines the complicated relationship between
health and stature
Stature of individual within average of region (Sládek et al., 2014)
Cribra orbitalia has multiple causes
restriction of red blood cell production from iron deficient
anemia (Walker et al., 2009)
Chronic megaloblastic anemia caused by vitamin B12 (Walker et
al., 2009)
In order to make generalization about socioeconomic and political influences
on the population, a larger sample size is necessary
This is particularly important in the Transylvania region of Romania,
which has suffered from a high degree of political and social upheaval
during its history and has been understudied from a bioarchaeological
MG was supported by a Trinity College Student Initiated Research Grant, and Dean of
Faculty Student Travel Grant. JF received contributions from the Human Identification Lab
at MSUD. MG and JF thank Dr. Jonathan Bethard and Donovan Adams for their support and
guidance throughout the project.
Skeletal Markers
Metabolic stress can impact growth and health
Bioarchaeological evidence can be used to approximate health of an
individual, and population-level social and health trends
Figure 1. Site map of Máréfalva excavation. Sir-11 is
indicated with a purple box.
Figure 2. Map highlighting Romania and study site. Máréfalva marked with star. Inset map scale = 40 km, larger
map scale = 400 km. Maps generated using Google Maps.
Biological Profile:
Between 16-19 years at time of death
Estimated stature: 153.5 162.5 cm
Non-Specific Indicators of Stress:
Linear enamel hypoplasia formed
between 2 6 years old
Cribra orbitalia
AlQahtani, S. J., Hector, M. P., & Liversidge, H. M. (2010). Brief communication: The London atlas of human tooth development and eruption. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 142(3), 481
Buikstra, J. E., & Ubelaker, D. H. (1994). Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains: Proceedings of a Seminar at the Field Museum of Natural History. Fayetteville, AL: Arkansas
Archeological Survey.
Goodman, A. H., & Rose, J. C. (1990). Assessment of systemic physiological perturbations from dental enamel hypoplasias and associated histological structures. American Journal of Physical
Anthropology, 33(S11), 59110.
Moggi-Cecchi, J., Pacciani, E., & Pinto-Cisternas, J. (1994). Enamel hypoplasia and age at weaning in 19th-century Florence, Italy. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 93(3), 299306.
Popa-Gorjanu, C. (2012). Transylvanian Identities in the Middle Ages. Identitats, 175190.
Sladek, V., Machacek, J., Ruff, C., Schuplerova, E., Prichystalova, R., & Hora, M. (2014). Stature estimation from long bones in the Early Medieval population at Pohansko (Czech Republic): Applicability
of regression equations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 153, 242254.
Trotter, M. (1970). Estimation of stature from intact long limb bones. Personal Identification in Mass Disasters, 7183.
Ubelaker, D. H. (1989). The estimation of age at death from immature human bone. Age Markers in the Human Skeleton, 5570.
Walker, P. L., Bathurst, R. R., Richman, R., Gjerdrum, T., & Andrushko, V. A. (2009). The causes of porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia: A reappraisal of the iron-deficiency-anemia hypothesis.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 139(2), 109125.
Walker, R., Gurven, M., Hill, K., Migliano, A., Chagnon, N., De Souza, R., … Yamauchi, T. (2006). Growth rates and life histories in twenty-two small-scale societies. American Journal of Human Biology,
18(3), 295311.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The aim of this study was to develop a comprehensive evidence-based atlas to estimate age using both tooth development and alveolar eruption for human individuals between 28 weeks in utero and 23 years. This was a cross-sectional, retrospective study of archived material with the sample aged 2 years and older having a uniform age and sex distribution. Developing teeth from 72 prenatal and 104 postnatal skeletal remains of known age-at-death were examined from collections held at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Natural History Museum, London, UK (M 91, F 72, unknown sex 13). Data were also collected from dental radiographs of living individuals (M 264, F 264). Median stage for tooth development and eruption for all age categories was used to construct the atlas. Tooth development was determined according to Moorrees et al. (J Dent Res 42 (1963a) 490–502; Am J Phys Anthropol 21 (1963b) 205–213) and eruption was assessed relative to the alveolar bone level. Intraexaminer reproducibility calculated using Kappa on 150 teeth was 0.90 for 15 skeletal remains of age <2 years, and 0.81 from 605 teeth (50 radiographs). Age categories were monthly in the last trimester, 2 weeks perinatally, 3-month intervals during the first year, and at every year thereafter. Results show that tooth formation is least variable in infancy and most variable after the age of 16 years for the development of the third molar. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Full-text available
This study investigates variation in body growth (cross-sectional height and weight velocity) among a sample of 22 small-scale societies. Considerable variation in growth exists among hunter-gatherers that overlaps heavily with growth trajectories present in groups focusing more on horticulture. Intergroup variation tends to track environmental conditions, with societies under more favorable conditions displaying faster growth and earlier puberty. In addition, faster/earlier development in females is correlated with higher mortality. For example, African "Pygmies," Philippine "Negritos," and the Hiwi of Venezuela are characterized by relatively fast child-juvenile growth for their adult body size (used as a proxy for energetic availability). In these societies, subadult survival is low, and puberty, menarche, and first reproduction are relatively early (given their adult body size), suggesting selective pressure for accelerated development in the face of higher mortality. In sum, the origin and maintenance of different human ontogenies may require explanations invoking both environmental constraints and selective pressures.
Objectives: We tested the effect of population-specific linear body proportions on stature estimation. Materials and methods: We used a skeletal sample of 31 males and 20 females from the Early Medieval site at Pohansko (Břeclav, Central Europe) and a comparative Central European Early Medieval sample of 45 males and 28 females. We developed new population-specific equations for the Pohansko sample using anatomical reconstructions of stature, then compared percentage prediction errors (%PEs) of anatomical stature from limb bone lengths using the derived Pohansko equations with those previously derived from more general European and other Early Medieval samples. Results: Among general European equations, the lowest %PEs for the Pohansko sample were obtained using the equations of Formicola and Franceschi: Am J Phys Anthropol 100 (1996) 83-88 and Ruff et al.: Am J Phys Anthropol 148 (2012) 601-617. However, unexpectedly, the choice between tibial latitudinal variants proposed by Ruff et al.: Am J Phys Anthropol 148 (2012) 601-617 appeared to be sex-specific, with northern and southern variants producing lower %PEs for males and females, respectively. Equations from Breitinger: Anthropol Anz 14 (1937) 249-274, Bach: Anthropol Anz 29 (1965) 12-21, and Sjøvold: Hum Evol 5 (1990) 431-447 provided poor agreement with anatomical stature. When applied to the comparative Central European Early Medieval sample, our new formulae have generally lower %PE than previously derived formulae based on other European Early Medieval samples (Maijanen and Niskanen: Int J Osteoarchaeol 20 (2010) 472-480; Vercellotti et al.: Am J Phys Anthropol 140 (2009) 135-142. Conclusions: The best agreement with anatomical stature among our newly developed equations was obtained using femoral+tibial length, followed by femoral length. Upper limb bone lengths resulted in higher %PEs. Variation in the tibia is likely to contribute most to potential bias in stature estimation. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Dental enamel hypoplasias are deficiencies in enamel thickness resulting from physiological perturbations (stress) during the secretory phase of amelogenesis. The results of a wide variety of experimental, clinical, and epidemiological studies strongly suggest that these defects and their associated histological abnormalities (such as accentuated stria of Retzius and Wilson bands) are relatively sensitive and nonspecific indicators of stress. Because of the inability of enamel to remodel, and the regular and ring-like nature of their development, these defects can provide an indelible, chronological record of stress during tooth crown formation. For these reasons, along with the ease with which they are studied, enamel hypoplasias have been increasingly employed as indicators of nutritional and disease status in paleopathology, and their study has begun to extend into other subdisciplines of physical anthropology.
Porosities in the outer table of the cranial vault (porotic hyperostosis) and orbital roof (cribra orbitalia) are among the most frequent pathological lesions seen in ancient human skeletal collections. Since the 1950s, chronic iron-deficiency anemia has been widely accepted as the probable cause of both conditions. Based on this proposed etiology, bioarchaeologists use the prevalence of these conditions to infer living conditions conducive to dietary iron deficiency, iron malabsorption, and iron loss from both diarrheal disease and intestinal parasites in earlier human populations. This iron-deficiency-anemia hypothesis is inconsistent with recent hematological research that shows iron deficiency per se cannot sustain the massive red blood cell production that causes the marrow expansion responsible for these lesions. Several lines of evidence suggest that the accelerated loss and compensatory over-production of red blood cells seen in hemolytic and megaloblastic anemias is the most likely proximate cause of porotic hyperostosis. Although cranial vault and orbital roof porosities are sometimes conflated under the term porotic hyperostosis, paleopathological and clinical evidence suggests they often have different etiologies. Reconsidering the etiology of these skeletal conditions has important implications for current interpretations of malnutrition and infectious disease in earlier human populations.
A sample representing a population of the Florence district of middle 19th century was studied to determine the age of occurrence of enamel hypoplasias. The age interval most affected was that between 1.5 and 3.5 years. Historical sources on weaning habits of 19th-century Italian populations indicate a weaning period between 12 and 18 months. This is in agreement with the data on enamel defects, showing that children of post-weaning age are more subject to stress. Wide "grooves", with prolonged duration, are concentrated between 2 and 2.5 years, whereas "lines" occur primarily between 2.5 and 3 years. We suggest that this distribution could reflect the gradual introduction of dietary supplements until weaning is complete.
Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains
  • J E Buikstra
  • D H Ubelaker
Buikstra, J. E., & Ubelaker, D. H. (1994). Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains: Proceedings of a Seminar at the Field Museum of Natural History. Fayetteville, AL: Arkansas Archeological Survey.