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Osteoarthritis, Labour Division, and Occupational Specialization of the Late Shang China – Insights from Yinxu (ca. 1250 – 1046 B.C.)

Author(s): Hua Zhang ; Deborah C. Merrett ; Zhichun Jing ; Jigen Tang ; Dongya Y. Yang

Year: 2017

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Summary

This study investigates the prevalence of osteoarthritis of commoners at Yinxu, the last capital of the Late Shang dynasty (ca. 1250 – 1046 B.C.), to study lifeways and stress of early urban populations in ancient China. A total of 197 adult skeletal human remains from five sites were analyzed to examine eight joints of upper and lower limbs in addition to three indicators of spinal osseous changes. The clear sex difference of elevated osteoarthritis prevalence in males indicates a strong gender division of labour. In addition, the distinctive osteoarthritis pattern of higher upper limb/body osteoarthritis reveals possible occupational specialization that involves repetitive lifting and carrying heavy-weight objects. When archaeological contexts are incorporated, the skeletal population from the Xiaomintun site with this distinctive pattern can be identified as a bronze-casting artisan group. Relatively higher osteoarthritis of the Xiaomintun females (when compared with non-specialist females) may also suggest that those women might also have participated in bronze-casting workshop activities. Such a family-involved occupation, if it existed, may have contributed to the establishment of lineage-based and occupation-oriented neighborhoods as proposed by many Shang archaeologists.


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Osteoarthritis, Labour Division, and Occupational Specialization of the Late Shang China – Insights from Yinxu (ca. 1250 – 1046 B.C.). Hua Zhang, Deborah C. Merrett, Zhichun Jing, Jigen Tang, Dongya Y. Yang. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 432005)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16336

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America