Variation in femoral morphology in children

I conducted my first research on femoral variation as part of an NSF-REU program in bioarchaeology at the University of Notre Dame, under the supervision of Susan G. Sheridan (U. of Notre Dame) and Jamie M. Ullinger (Quinnipiac University).

Bab edh-Dhra’, Jordan is an Early Bronze Age city on the shores of the Dead Sea. Human remains have been found, burned and commingled, in several charnel houses at this site. Among these commingled remains are many juveniles. Age distributions at burial sites can inform our demographic analyses of living sites (e.g. the Bab edh-Dhra’ city), but because the juvenile craniodental remains are separated from their corresponding postcranial remains it is difficult to draw any real conclusions about these age distributions. We used length estimates of femora from an Early Bronze Age charnel house to determine the age distribution of the subadults interred there, and compared to the age distribution determined from the dental remains. These two distributions largely matched up.

I continued this work for my undergraduate honors thesis, under the supervision of Janet M. Monge (U. of Pennsylvania). The human femur is a structure that grows and develops in part as a response to environmental variables, such as physical activity and diet. I tested whether the relationship between the proximal femur (femoral head diameter and mediolateral neck breadth) to the femoral diaphysis varied between human populations. My results indicate that the relationship of the femoral head to the femoral shaft does not vary across populations, but the relationship between mediolateral neck breadth and femoral shaft length does. These results are congruent with previous research indicating that the femoral neck varies morphologically between populations and is much more responsive to differences in stress and environment than the femoral head, an articular surface, is. However, sample size or methodological issues could account for the discrepancy between populations.

Conference presentations

  • 2010. Villamil CI, Ullinger JM, Sheridan SG. Subadult age estimates of an Early Bronze Age charnel house at Bab edh-Dhra’, Jordan. Am J Phys Anthropol 141(S50):235. [abstract] [PDF]

Other reports

  • 2011. Villamil CI. The relationship of the proximal femur to femoral length in children. Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. (unpublished)

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