From Biochemistry to Bone: Exploring the Stress Response in Archaeological Skeletal Remains

Author(s): Amy Scott; Matthew Collins

Year: 2017


Bone is the foundation of the human body. In an archaeological context, the skeleton is the primary piece of evidence with which to explore past peoples and cultures. Because the skeleton adapts and changes over the life course, bone acts as a record-keeper, capturing specific periods of skeletal disturbance that we are able to observe and interpret. While the research potential using skeletal remains seems limitless, the primary challenge is that changes associated with poor health take time to manifest in skeletal tissues, inherently limiting what we are visually able to assess in osteological remains. However, through the integration of innovative biochemical methods that can identify the earliest stages of skeletal disruption, it will be possible to pinpoint changes in health not yet visible in the bone. This research compares visible skeletal changes associated with stress to biochemical fluctuations in protein (osteocalcin) and steroid (cortisol) levels to assess if these elements preserve in ancient bone and their relationship to gross macroscopic changes. Combining the interpretive power of these two chemicals in a novel and innovative way will make it possible to track periods of stress from the moment of onset through to visible skeletal change, leading to new interpretive possibilities.

Cite this Record

From Biochemistry to Bone: Exploring the Stress Response in Archaeological Skeletal Remains. Amy Scott, Matthew Collins. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431367)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -142.471; min lat: 42.033 ; max long: -47.725; max lat: 74.402 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16913