Portrait of Dr Chris Deter

Dr Chris Deter

Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Chief Examiner
Programme Convenor for BSc in Anthropology, BSc in Biological Anthropology and MSc in Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods
Director of KORA (Kent Osteology Research Analysis)

About

Dr Chris Deter received her PhD in Biological Anthropology from UCL in 2005. She also holds an MSc in Osteology, Palaeopathology and Funerary Archaeology from the University of Sheffield (1999) and a BSc in Archaeology from Kansas State University (1996). She has participated in several archaeological fieldwork projects in the United States, Namibia, Israel, Nicaragua, Belize and Greece. She is currently  programme convenor for the MSc in Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods at the University of Kent.

Research interests

Dr Chris Deter’s research focuses on dietary reconstruction of ancient human populations. Currently, she is working on reconstructing diet during the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods in Kent, using chemical signatures retained in bones, known as stable isotopes. She uses stable isotopes combined with dental wear and pathology to investigate population social hierarchy, sexual differences within the community and weaning dietary changes in medieval children.

Chris is also interested in funerary practices in ancient populations. She explores differences between social structure, biological sex, age at death, burial placement and location within the cemetery.

Some of her previous research investigated the change in diets of North American and Near Eastern hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists, looking at how different environments affected the rate at which teeth wear.  She also looked at how tooth wear can give insight on the eruption sequence and timing of dentition.

Teaching

Undergraduate

  • SE609: Forensic Anthropology
  • SE570: Current Issues in Evolutionary Anthropology (module convenor)
  • SE566: Human Osteology (module convenor)
  • SE533: Project in Anthropological Science
  • SE302: Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE308: Skills for Anthropology and Conservation

Postgraduate

Dr Deter is the programme convenor of the MSc Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods.

  • SE814: Advanced Human Osteology and Anatomy (module convenor)
  • SE813: Dissertation Project (module convenor)
  • SE816: Forensic Methods of Identification
  • SE817: Growth and Disease of the Human Skeleton
  • SE818: Field Excavation and Recovery Methods
  • SE992: Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology

Dr Deter also supervises MSc Dissertation students.

Supervision

Dr Deter is interested in supervising PhD students in the fields of human osteology and dietary reconstruction.

Professional

Dr Chris Deter is the Director of Kent Osteological Research and Analysis unit (KORA), which is based in the School of Anthropology and Conservation.  This unit offers commercial osteological services to a range of public sectors, and works closely with the regional archaeological units, especially Canterbury Archaeological Trust, The Trust for Thanet Archaeology and SWALE.

Publications

Article

  • Mahoney, P., McFarlane, G., Pitfield, R., O’Hara, M., Miszkiewicz, J., Deter, C., Seal, H. and Guatelli-Steinberg, D. (2020). A structural biorhythm related to human sexual dimorphism. Journal of Structural Biology [Online] 211. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1047847720301234?dgcid=author.
    Life on earth is regulated by biological rhythms, some of which oscillate with a circadian, monthly or lunar cycle. Recent research suggests that there is a near weekly biorhythm that may exert an influence on human skeletal growth. Evidence for the timing of this biorhythm is retained in tooth enamel as the periodicity of Retzius lines. Studies report that Retzius periodicity (RP) relates to adult human stature and enamel thickness. Adult human stature is sexually dimorphic, and so is enamel thickness of maxillary third molars (M3) but not mandibular M3. Yet, previous studies report sex differences in RP are apparent in some populations but not others, and it is unknown if dimorphism in enamel thickness relates to RP. To further our understanding of this biorhythm we analysed sex-related variation in RP and its relationship with enamel thickness in a sample of M3’s (n=94) from adults in Northern Britain.

    Results reveal RP was significantly higher in our sample of female molars compared to those of males, which is consistent with the previously reported correlation between the biorhythm and adult stature. The RP of maxillary M3 related to sex differences in enamel thickness, but this relationship was not present in mandibular M3. Our results support previous findings suggesting that this biorhythm is sexually dimorphic and provide the first evidence that RP may be one factor influencing sex differences in enamel thickness. Our study also shows that correlations between RP and enamel thickness appear to be most readily detected for tooth types with sufficiently wide ranges of enamel thickness variation, as is the case for maxillary but not mandibular M3. Achieving a sufficient sample size was critical for detecting a sex difference in periodicity.
  • Aris, C., Mahoney, P. and Deter, C. (2020). Enamel growth rates of anterior teeth in males and females from modern and ancient British populations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology [Online]. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.24068.
    Objectives: This study explored biological sex differences in the regional daily growth rates of human anterior enamel from modern and ancient populations in Britain.

    Methods: Maxillary permanent incisors (n=80) and canines (n=69) from Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval, and Modern day populations were analysed using histological methods. Daily secretion rates (DSRs) were collected for inner, mid, and outer regions of cuspal and lateral enamel. Modern day samples were of known sex, archaeological individuals had sex determined using standard osteological methods. Variation in DSRs between the sexes, both between and within populations, was sought using parametric and non-parametric tests.

    Results: When all samples were pooled, there was no significant difference between males and females. Similarly no significant differences in DSRs were identified between male and females within each population. When DSRs were compared between the populations, DSRs decreased from the more ancient to the more recent populations for males, and for females. More inter-population differences were observed in males.

    Discussion: This study presents evidence for the relative consistency of enamel DSRs between male and female groups within each British population. Inter-population analyses found DSRs slowed significantly between Roman and modern day populations for both sexes, with male DSRs showing the greatest variation between populations.
  • Aris, C., Mahoney, P., O’Hara, M. and Deter, C. (2020). Enamel thickness and growth rates in modern human permanent first molars over a 2000 year period in Britain. American Journal of Physical Anthropology [Online]. Available at: https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.chain.kent.ac.uk/doi/10.1002/ajpa.24026.
    Objectives: This study explores variation and trends in first molar enamel thickness and daily enamel secretion rates over a 2000 year period in Britain. Methods: Permanent first molars (n=89) from the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Medieval periods, as well as modern day Britain, were analysed using standard histological methods. Relative enamel thickness (RET) and linear measurements of cuspal and lateral thickness were calculated for mesial cusps. Daily secretion rates (DSRs) were calculated for inner, mid, and outer enamel regions in both cuspal and lateral enamel. Significant differences and trends were identified between samples using non-parametric statistical tests. Results: Enamel thickness differed between some populations, but no temporal trends were identified. Early Anglo-Saxon molars had significantly thinner RET than both Late Anglo-Saxon (p<0.00) and Medieval (p<0.00) molars. Lateral enamel from the Roman molars was significantly thinner than the modern day sample (p=0.04). In contrast, DSRs slowed significantly from the more ancient to the modern day samples in every comparison except the mid lateral enamel region. Discussion:
    This study presents the first evidence for a gradual slowing in the daily rate that enamel is secreted in molars over the past 2000 years in Britain. However, this trend was not matched by a change in enamel thickness, which remained fairly consistent over this time period. These findings suggest that modern human molars of similar enamel thickness, from different modern and ancient populations, formed at different rates.
  • Pitfield, R., Deter, C. and Mahoney, P. (2019). Bone histomorphometric measures of physical activity in children from Medieval England. American Journal of Physical Anthropology [Online] 169:730-746. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23853.
    Objectives: Histomorphometric studies show consistent links between physical activity patterns and the microstructure underlying the size and shape of bone. Here we adopt a combined bone approach to explore variation in microstructure of ribs and humeri related to physical activity and historical records of manual labor in skeletal samples of children (n=175) from medieval England. The humerus reflects greater biomechanically induced microstructural variation than the rib which is used here as a control. Variation in microstructure is sought between regions in England (Canterbury, York, Newcastle), and between high- and low-status children from Canterbury.
    Materials and Methods: Thin-sections were prepared from the humerus or rib and features of bone remodeling were recorded using high-resolution microscopy and image analysis software.
    Results: The density and size of secondary osteons in the humerus differed significantly in children from Canterbury when compared to those from York and Newcastle. Amongst the older children, secondary osteon circularity and diameter differed significantly between higher and lower status children.
    Discussion: By applying bone remodeling principles to the histomorphometric data we infer that medieval children in Canterbury engaged in less physically demanding activities than children from York or Newcastle. Within Canterbury, high-status and low-status children experienced similar biomechanical loading until around seven years of age. After this age low-status children performed activities that resulted in more habitual loading on their arm bones than the high-status children. This inferred change in physical activity is consistent with historical textual evidence that describes children entering the work force at this age.
  • Mahoney, P., Miszkiewicz, J., Chapple, S., Le Luyer, M., Schlecht, S., Stewart, T., Griffiths, R., Deter, C. and Guatelli-Steinberg, D. (2018). The Biorhythm of Human Skeletal Growth. Journal of Anatomy [Online] 232:26-38. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12709.
    Evidence of a periodic biorhythm is retained in tooth enamel in the form of Retzius lines. The periodicity of Retzius lines (RP) correlates with body mass and the scheduling of life history events when compared between some mammalian species. The correlation has led to the development of the inter-specific Havers-Halberg Oscillation (HHO) hypothesis, which holds great potential for studying aspects of a fossil species biology from teeth. Yet, our understanding of if, or how the HHO relates to human skeletal growth is limited. The goal here is to explore associations between the biorhythm and two hard tissues that form at different times during human ontogeny, within the context of the HHO. First, we investigate the relationship of RP to permanent molar enamel thickness and the underlying daily rate that ameloblasts secrete enamel during childhood. Following this, we develop preliminary research conducted on small samples of adult human bone by testing associations between RP, adult femoral length (as a proxy for attained adult stature), and cortical osteocyte lacunae density (as a proxy for the rate of osteocyte proliferation). Results reveal RP is positively correlated with enamel thickness, negatively correlated with femoral length, but weakly associated with the rate of enamel secretion and osteocyte proliferation. These new data imply that a slower biorhythm predicts thicker enamel for children but shorter stature for adults. Our results develop the intra-specific HHO hypothesis suggesting that there is a common underlying systemic biorhythm that has a role in the final products of human enamel and bone growth.
  • Fahy, G., Deter, C., Pitfield, R., Miszkiewicz, J. and Mahoney, P. (2017). Bone deep: variation in stable isotope ratios and histomorphometric measurements of bone remodelling within adult humans. Journal of Archaeological Science [Online] 87:10-16. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.009.
    Stable carbon (?13C) and nitrogen (?15N) isotope studies of ancient human diet increasingly sample several skeletal elements within an individual. Such studies draw upon differences in bone turnover rates to reconstruct diet during different periods of time within an individual’s lifetime. Rib and femoral bone, with their respectively fast and slow remodeling rates, are the bones most often sampled to reconstruct shorter and longer term signals of diet prior to death. It is poorly understood if ?13C and ?15N vary between bone types within a single individual, or if this variation corresponds with bone turnover rate (BTR). Here, we determined ?13C and ?15N for ten different bones from ten adult human skeletons (n=5 males; n=5 females). Isotope values were compared to the rate that each bone remodeled, calculated from osteon population (OPD) density. Results reveal that isotope ratios varied within each skeleton (?13C: max= -1.58‰; ?1542 N: max= 3.05‰). Humeri, metacarpals, and ribs had the highest rate of bone remodelling; the occipital bone had the lowest. A regression analyses revealed that higher rates of bone remodeling are significantly and negatively correlated with lower ?15N. Our results suggest that the occipital bone, with its slow rate of bone renewal, may prove useful for isotopic studies that reconstruct diet over longer periods of time within an individual’s lifetime. Isotope studies that compare individual skeletal elements between populations should standardize their methodology to bones with either a slow or fast turnover rate.
  • Mahoney, P., Miszkiewicz, J., Pitfield, R., Deter, C. and Guatelli-Steinberg, D. (2017). Enamel biorhythms of humans and great apes: the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis reconsidered. Journal of Anatomy [Online] 230:272-281. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12551.
    The Havers-Halberg Oscillation (HHO) hypothesis links evidence for the timing of a biorhythm retained in permanent tooth enamel (Retzius periodicity) to adult body mass and life history traits across mammals. Potentially, these links provide a way to access life history of fossil species from teeth. Recently we assessed intra-specific predictions of the HHO on human children. We reported Retzius periodicity (RP) corresponded with enamel thickness, and cusp formation time, when calculated from isolated deciduous teeth. We proposed the biorhythm might not remain constant within an individual. Here, we test our findings. RP is compared between deciduous second and permanent first molars within the maxillae of four human children. Following this, we report the first RPs for deciduous teeth from modern great apes (n = 4), and compare these with new data for permanent teeth (n = 18) from these species, as well as with previously published values. We also explore RP in teeth that retain hypoplastic defects. Results show RP changed within the maxilla of each child, from thinner to thicker enameled molars, and from one side of a hypoplastic defect to the other. When considered alongside correlations between RP and cusp formation time, these observations provide further evidence that RP is associated with enamel growth processes and does not always remain constant within an individual. RP of 5 days for great ape deciduous teeth lay below the lowermost range of those from permanent teeth of modern orangutan and gorilla, and within the lowermost range of RPs from chimpanzee permanent teeth. Our data suggest associations between RP and enamel growth processes of humans might extend to great apes. These findings provide a new framework from which to develop the HHO hypothesis, which can incorporate enamel growth along with other physiological systems. Applications of the HHO to fossil teeth should avoid transferring RP between deciduous and permanent enamel, or including hypoplastic teeth.
  • Mahoney, P., Schmidt, C., Deter, C., Remy, A., Slavin, P., Johns, S., Miszkiewicz, J. and Nystrom, P. (2016). Deciduous enamel 3D microwear texture analysis as an indicator of childhood diet in medieval Canterbury, England. Journal of Archaeological Science [Online] 66:128-136. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2016.01.007.
    This study conducted the first three dimensional microwear texture analysis of human deciduous teeth to reconstruct the physical properties of medieval childhood diet (age 1-8yrs) at St Gregory's Priory and Cemetery (11th to 16th century AD) in Canterbury, England. Occlusal texture complexity surfaces of maxillary molars from juvenile skeletons (n=44) were examined to assess dietary hardness. Anisotropy values were calculated to reconstruct dietary toughness, as well as jaw movements during chewing. Evidence of weaning was sought, and variation in the physical properties of food was assessed against age and socio-economic status. Results indicate that weaning had already commenced in the youngest children. Diet became tougher from four years of age, and harder from age six. Variation in microwear texture surfaces was related to historical textual evidence that refers to lifestyle developments for these age groups. Diet did not vary with socio-economic status, which differs to previously reported patterns for adults. We conclude, microwear texture analyses can provide a non-destructive tool for revealing subtle aspects of childhood diet in the past.
  • Mahoney, P., Miszkiewicz, J., Pitfield, R., Schlecht, S., Deter, C. and Guatelli-Steinberg, D. (2016). Biorhythms, deciduous enamel thickness, and primary bone growth in modern human children: a test of the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis. Journal of Anatomy [Online] 228:919-928. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12450.
    Across mammalian species, the periodicity with which enamel layers form (Retzius periodicity) in permanent teeth corresponds with average body mass and the pace of life history. According to the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis (HHO), Retzius periodicity (RP) is a manifestation of a biorhythm that is also expressed in lamellar bone. Potentially, these links provide a basis for investigating aspects of a species’ biology from fossilized teeth. Here, we tested intra-specific predictions of this hypothesis on skeletal samples of human juveniles. We measured daily enamel growth increments to calculate RP in deciduous molars (n=25). Correlations were sought between RP, molar average and relative enamel thickness (AET, RET), and the average amount of primary bone growth (n=7) in humeri of age-matched juveniles.

    Results show a previously un-described relationship between RP and enamel thickness. Reduced major axis regression reveals RP is significantly and positively correlated with AET and RET, and scales isometrically. The direction of the correlation was opposite to HHO predictions as currently understood for human adults. Juveniles with higher RPs and thicker enamel had increased primary bone formation, which suggests a coordinating biorhythm. However, the direction of the correspondence was again, opposite to predictions. Next, we compared RP from deciduous molars to new data for permanent molars, and to previously published values. The lowermost RP of four and five days in deciduous enamel extends below the lowermost RP of six days in permanent enamel. A lowered range of RP values in deciduous enamel implies that the underlying biorhythm might change with age. Our results develop the intra-specific HHO hypothesis.

Book section

  • Miszkiewicz, J., Stewart, T., Deter, C., Fahy, G. and Mahoney, P. (2019). Chapter 2. Skeletal health in Medieval societies: insights from stable isotopes and dental histology. In: Miszkiewicz, J. J., Brennan-Olsen, S. and Riancho, J. A. eds. Bone Health: A Reflection of the Social Mosaic. Springer. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-7256-8.
  • Deter, C., Mahoney, P., Johns, S. and Thomas, S. (2019). Chapter 6. Aspects of human osteology and skeletal biology. In: Parker Pearson, M., Sheridan, A., Jay, M., Chamberlain, A., Richards, M. P. and Evans, J. eds. The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain. Oxford: Oxbow, pp. 253-291. Available at: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-beaker-people.html.
    This chapter presents the results of three studies
    that were undertaken as part of the Beaker People
    Project (BPP), and which complemented the
    osteological work undertaken for the Beakers
    and Bodies Project as reported in Chapter 5. The
    first study examined the age and sex of 201
    individuals that had been deemed suitable for
    isotopic analysis of dental enamel. The second
    examined tooth enamel defects in 12 juvenile
    skeletons, as an indicator of non-specific infant
    stress. The third was a craniometric study of
    skulls from the Peak District, designed to assess
    the validity of previous claims for a change in
    skull shape from dolichocephalic (long-headed)
    during the Neolithic, to brachycephalic (roundheaded)
    from the Chalcolithic onwards, and to
    explore the possible reasons for the observed
    differences. The chapter ends by considering
    the results of the craniometric study in the
    light of isotopic evidence suggesting a high
    incidence of non-local individuals within the
    Peak District dataset.
  • Mahoney, P., Chiu, L., Nystrom, P., Deter, C. and Schmidt, C. (2019). Chapter 7. Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches. In: Parker Pearson, M., Chamberlain, A., Jay, M., Richards, M. and Evans, J. eds. The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain. UK: Prehistoric Society Research Papers. Available at: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-beaker-people.html.
  • Mahoney, P., Chiu, L., Nystrom, P., Deter, C. and Schmidt, C. (2019). Dental microwear: 2D and 3D approaches. In: Parker Pearson, M., Sheridan, A., Jay, M., Chamberlain, A., Richards, M. and Evans, J. eds. The Beaker People: Isotopes, Mobility and Diet in Prehistoric Britain. Oxbow Books. Available at: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-beaker-people.html.

Conference or workshop item

  • Marques, M., Pomeroy, J., Green, R., Deter, C., Bradu, A. and Podoleanu, A. (2019). Improved visualization of decomposing tattoos using optical coherence tomography. In: European Conferences on Biomedical Optics. SPIE. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.2526757.
    Tattoos can be used in forensic human identification as a secondary means of identification (other means being, but not limited to, personal descriptions and artefacts) allowing the identification procedure to be strengthened in this way. Despite this, the decomposition of tattoos is a topic not extensively studied in taphonomic research (study of how organisms decay). In this communication, we assess optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a method to reliably identify tattoos before and after decomposition, by imaging tattooed porcine samples. OCT was able to penetrate up to 3mm below the surface and visualize parts of tattoos after 16 days of decomposition, which were no longer visible and recognizable using conventional photography-based methods. We believe this imaging modality has the potential to increase the reliability of tattoos in forensic human identification.
  • Mahoney, P., Miszkiewicz, J., Pitfield, R., Schlecht, S., Deter, C. and Guatelli-Steinberg, D. (2016). Biorhythms, deciduous enamel thickness, and primary bone growth in modern human children: a test of the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis. In: The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016). Wiley. Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2016/session12/mahoney-2016-biorhythms-deciduous-enamel-thickness-and-primary-bone-growth-in-modern-human-children-a-test-of-the-havers-halberg-oscillation-hypothesis.html.
    Across mammalian species, the periodicity with which enamel layers form (Retzius periodicity) in permanent teeth corresponds with average body mass and the pace of life history. According to the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis (HHO), Retzius periodicity (RP) is a manifestation of a biorhythm that is also expressed in lamellar bone. Potentially, these links provide a basis for investigating aspects of a species’ biology from fossilized teeth. Here, we tested intra-specific predictions of this hypothesis on skeletal samples of modern human juveniles. We measured daily enamel growth increments to calculate RP in deciduous molars (n=25). Correlations were sought between RP, molar average enamel thickness (AET), and the average amount of primary bone growth in humeri from age-matched juveniles.

    Results show a previously un-described relationship between RP and enamel thickness. Reduced major axis regression reveals RP is significantly and positively correlated with AET, and scales isometrically. The scaling relationship could not be explained through body mass. Juveniles with higher RPs and thicker enamel had more primary bone formation, which suggests a coordinating biorhythm. However, the direction of the correspondence was opposite to that predicted by the HHO. Next, we compared RP from deciduous molars to new data for permanent molars, and previously published values. The lowermost RP of four and five days in deciduous enamel was less than the lowermost value of six days in permanent enamel. A lowered range of RP values in deciduous enamel indicates that the underlying biorhythm might change with age. Our results develop the HHO.
  • Mahoney, P., Schmidt, C., Deter, C., Slavin, P. and Miszkiewicz, J. (2015). Social weaning: childhood diet and health in medieval Canterbury, UK. In: The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. WILEY-LISS, DIV JOHN WILEY & SONS INC, p. 1. Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2015/session14/mahoney-2015-social-weaning-childhood-diet-and-health-in-medieval-canterbury-uk.html.
    Food consumption during the medieval period is understood mainly from adult diet, higher status families, and monastic communities. By contrast, there is little direct evidence for foods consumed by children, or whether their diet corresponded with health and status. Here, we address these questions in skeletal samples from the medieval city of Canterbury. We undertake the first comprehensive intra-specific microwear texture analysis of childhood diet (n=51) and integrate this with histological ‘snap-shots’ of general health from enamel accentuated markings (n=71). An adult comparative sample (n=11) is included.

    Microwear texture complexity values increased from age 1 to 4yrs while anisotropy values decreased suggesting that foods became harder and required more varied jaw movements during chewing. The 4.1-6 year olds had a significantly lower mean complexity value than younger children. Complexity values increased again while anisotropy decreased in 6.1-9 year olds. Prevalence of accentuated markings peaked at 6 months, early in the second year, and just before age 4yrs. Diet did not relate to childhood status, and adults consumed a greater range of softer and harder foods.

    Health of the youngest children likely relates to an immature immune system. Correspondence between a softer diet and improved health around age 4yrs may indicate the start of ‘social weaning’. Textual evidence refers to lifestyle changes from this age onwards, as children undertook household chores and then work outside the home. This might have provided less opportunity for early childhood dietary staples contaminated with grit, and initially introduced a softer but more nutritious adult food.
  • Mahoney, P., Schmidt, C., Deter, C., Remy, A., Slavin, P., Miszkiewicz, J. and Nystrom, P. (2015). Social weaning: childhood diet and health in medieval Canterbury, UK. In: The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015). Wiley, p. 1. Available at: http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2015/session14/mahoney-2015-social-weaning-childhood-diet-and-health-in-medieval-canterbury-uk.html.
    Food consumption during the medieval period is understood mainly from adult diet, higher status families, and monastic communities. By contrast, there is little direct evidence for foods consumed by children, or whether their diet corresponded with health and status. Here, we address these questions in skeletal samples from the medieval city of Canterbury. We undertake the first comprehensive intra-specific microwear texture analysis of childhood diet (n=51) and integrate this with histological ‘snap-shots’ of general health from enamel accentuated markings (n=71). An adult comparative sample (n=11) is included. Microwear texture complexity values increased from age 1 to 4yrs while anisotropy values decreased suggesting that foods became harder and required more varied jaw movements during chewing. The 4.1-6 year olds had a significantly lower mean complexity value than younger children. Complexity values increased again while anisotropy decreased in 6.1-9 year olds. Prevalence of accentuated markings peaked at 6 months, early in the second year, and just before age 4yrs. Diet did not relate to childhood status, and adults consumed a greater range of softer and harder foods. Health of the youngest children likely relates to an immature immune system. Correspondence between a softer diet and improved health around age 4yrs may indicate the start of ‘social weaning’. Textual evidence refers to lifestyle changes from this age onwards, as children undertook household chores and then work outside the home. This might have provided less opportunity for early childhood dietary staples contaminated with grit, and initially introduced a softer but more nutritious adult food.

Research report (external)

  • Deter, C., Miszkiewicz, J. and Mahoney, P. (2011). Osteological Analyses of Cremated Human Remains KEMS-WEB-10. Kent Archaeological Projects.

Thesis

  • Chapple, S. (2016). Long Period Growth Lines in Enamel and Body Size in Humans: A Test of the Havers-Halberg Hypothesis.
    According to the Havers-Halberg Oscillation hypothesis (HHO), evidence of a metabolic biorhythm retained in enamel as Retzius periodicity (RP) positively correlates with average body mass and the pace of life history across the majority of mammalian species. In humans, RP is highly variable between individuals, but it is unknown if it correlates with body size, as it does across species. Here, stature and body mass was estimated in an archeological sample of modern humans (n=23). Retzius periodicity was reconstructed for permanent teeth from the same individuals. Reduced major axis regression revealed that RP is significantly and negatively correlated with stature and body mass in adult humans. Individuals with higher RPs were of smaller stature and body mass than those with lower RPs. These results support an intraspecific HHO hypothesis, whereby increases in body size within humans are achieved through an accelerated biorhythm, and reflected by a lower RP. Results presented here lay a new foundation for studies of enamel histology and life history within modern humans, with potential applications to our fossil ancestors.
  • Pitfield, R. (2015). Ontogenetic Perspectives on Modern Human Long Bone Growth: The Humerus.
    Biological anthropologists routinely infer ancient human behaviour from macroscopic skeletal markers, although the underlying relationship between bone growth and functional adaptation remains complex. To date, few studies have undertaken a microstructural analysis of bone plasticity in relation to ontogeny. The primary aim of this study is to map histological changes within the humerus with age. If the histological changes have a strong correlation with age then it will be possible to produce a regression equation to predict juvenile age-at-death. This is the secondary aim of the study. The final aim is to ascertain how bone robusticity influences bone growth, within age-matched juveniles.

    A sample of 83 juvenile skeletons from St. Gregory’s Priory, Canterbury were aged using standard methods. One 0.5 cm histological section was removed from the anterior humeral midshaft of each skeleton. Histological slides were prepared using standard methods. The density and morphometrics of primary osteons and secondary osteons were recorded using a high resolution microscope.

    Results show that primary osteon population density has a strong negative correlation with age (rs = -0.672, N = 83, p < 0.0005). Secondary osteon population density has a strong positive correlation with age (rs = 0.878, N = 83, p < 0.0005). A regression equation to estimate age at death from primary and secondary osteon population density was produced. The equation can be used to estimate juvenile age-at-death, between 0 - 17 years of age, with 86.1% accuracy. In an age matched sub-group robusticity was found to have a negative correlation with secondary osteon population density (rs = -0.642, N = 35, p < 0.001).
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