Bone metabolism change with lifestyle in ancient Asia-Pacific populations.
This project aims to address a significant gap in our current knowledge of global change in skeletal health throughout recent human history. By contributing the first bone microstructural data for archaeological humans from across Asia-Pacific, this project aims to map the ways in which these ancient humans grew and adapted to different lifestyles. The project expects to identify new ways of predicting human bone health response to environmental and cultural change, contributing models for the well-being of past, living, and future human generations.
Building upon my previous research, this project aims to address a significant gap (Figure 1 below on the left) in our current knowledge of global bone metabolism change throughout the Holocene (ca. 11,700 BP – present). By contributing the first bone histology data for archaeological humans from across Asia-Pacific, and comparing them to modern Australian samples, the project will test whether bone metabolism has slowed down with lifestyle change over the course of our recent history. The study of human bones from archaeological contexts offers a wealth of information about our biology and lifestyle adaptation over the course of recent history. Central to this bioarchaeological endeavour is the reconstruction of bone growth and metabolic rates from preserved cell cavities and other histological structures (palaeometabolism), which would have been vital in sustaining and renewing the once living skeletons of our immediate ancestors (Figure 2 below on the right).
The research has implications for understanding bone health from the past to the present in human societies and expanding the bioarchaeology of Asia-Pacific. These are pressing research goals because the quality of adult bone in living humans is alarmingly poor and associated with an increased prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis. In 2014, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that 9.4% of Australians over 50 years of age had poor bone health, with 2013 estimates that a 31% increase is likely by 2026. We cannot fully explain this phenomenon without first investigating bone metabolism change and its relationship to different lifestyles and environmental factors in ancient societies.
Map of data collection and analysis progress (I am trying to update as regularly as possible!)
blue - thin section preparation in progress
green - data collection/analysis
red - manuscript writing stage
grey - awaiting sample access
yellow - published
Locations represented so far and collaborators:
Australia (modern forensic, excl. Aboriginal) - Melbourne (Hardiman)
Solomon Islands 700-300 BP (Pacific) - Otago (Kinaston, Buckley), Honiara Museum (Kiko)
Indonesia 2000 BP (Southeast Asia) - ANU (Bellwood)
Philippines Metal Period (Southeast Asia) - ANU/ Aberdeen (Oxenham)
Kingdom of Tonga 2650 BP (Pacific) - ANU (Clark), CNRS (Valentin)
Vietnam 3600-3900 BP, ca. 6000 BP (Southeast Asia) - ANU/ Aberdeen (Oxenham)
Iran, various time periods (Western Asia) - Warsaw (Soltysiak)
Iraqi Kurdistan, various time periods (Western Asia) - Warsaw (Fetner)
Marshall Islands, Micronesia 20 - 1638 AD (Pacific) - UQ (Weisler)
Timor Island 5–18 ka (Southeast Asia) - rat model ANU (O'Connor), Griffith (Louys)
New Zealand historical - Otago (Buckley)