Anemia, cribra cranii and elemental composition using portable X-ray fluorescence

Anemia, cribra cranii and elemental composition using portable X-ray fluorescence: A study in individuals from the Coimbra Identified Osteological Collections, is the most recent paper authored by CIAS’ PhD student, Ricardo Gomes, in collaboration with Lídia Catarino and Ana Luísa Santos. The work was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, see HERE.

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Abstract

Anemia, a multifactorial condition with an intricate etiology, impacts on worldwide health. In bioarchaeology, cribra orbitalia (CO) and cribra cranii (CC) have been associated with anemia. However, studies point to a complex origin for these lesions allied with pathogenic loads and poor living conditions. Bone elemental composition might help to identify homeostatic ruptures due to anemia and/or cribra. This study hypothesizes that possible homeostatic ruptures due to anemia and CC can cause measurable alterations in bone elemental concentration, particularly in elements such as Ca, P, Fe, Cu and Pb. Twelve elements were measured by non-invasive pXRF, in 45 crania (27 females, 18 males) from the Coimbra Identified Osteological Collections. Individuals were grouped according to cause of death (COD) −19 anemia vs. 26 control – and CO and CC were recorded as present/absent. None of the individuals had CO and 14 expressed CC (4 in the anemic and 10 in the control group). Data from previous studies, and the Ca/P ratio suggest a low diagenetic impact on the sample; however, alteration of bone bioapatite has been identified as the process underlying the first principal component. Individuals with anemia as COD had lower Si content (Cp3), but this element might be under the detection limits. Principal component analysis identified that individuals with CC presented higher levels of Fe and lower of S (Cp2). These elements are in close affinity in the soil, but they are not correlated in this investigation. Hence, their concentrations may be associated with socioeconomic conditions of the Coimbra population in the 19th/20th century. Females presented higher concentration of P and Ca. This might be due to a retention of these elements in young women with demanding physiological roles, yet a diagenetic effect cannot be excluded. Older individuals presented lower concentrations of P, Ca, and Cl and higher of Pb. These differences may be associated with the normal aging process and with the fact that fragile skeletons are more prone to post-mortem alterations. Portable XRF proved to be a useful tool for the study of documented individuals and bone elemental composition may contribute to the etiological discussion of anemia and CC, as well as the taphonomic process.

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Anemia, cribra cranii and elemental composition using portable X-ray fluorescence

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