Vertebral Wedging: A potential tool for the determination of parity in archaeological samples?

Author(s): April Smith; Xiaofei Li; Laurie Reitsema

Year: 2016


During pregnancy, women experience lordotic posturing to compensate for the weight of the growing fetus. Biomechanical stress from lordotic posturing causes bone remodeling of the lumbar spine during pregnancy resulting in lumbar wedging, which may persist after giving birth. Persistence of lumbar wedging in skeletal samples has potential applications for estimating parity in the archaeological record. This research analyzes the possibility that lumbar wedging is observable in the skeletal record by analyzing morphometrics of lumbar vertebrae from 131 individuals with known demographic data and medical histories from the William M. Bass Skeletal Collection at the University of Tennessee. Using ANOVA analysis and mixed-effect models, we find no association between parity and lumbar wedging, but we do observe an overall trend of increasing lumbar wedging with age, which may be due to degeneration with age under bipedal loading. Though vertebral wedging during pregnancy is an observable phenomenon during pregnancy in living populations, this study indicates that the human spine is highly plastic and adaptable, and temporary stressors do not permanently alter the shape of vertebrae such that they could be used to estimate parity in archaeological populations.

Cite this Record

Vertebral Wedging: A potential tool for the determination of parity in archaeological samples?. April Smith, Xiaofei Li, Laurie Reitsema. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405244)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;