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A comparison of subadult skeletal and dental development based on living and deceased samples

NCJ Number
American Journal of Physical Anthropology Volume: 175 Issue: 1 Dated: May 2021 Pages: 36-58
Date Published
May 2021
23 pages

Since a fundamental assumption in biological anthropology is that living individuals will present with different growth than non-survivors of the same population, the aim of the current study is to address the question of whether growth and development data of non-survivors are reflective of the biological consequences of selective mortality and/or stress.



The study compares dental development and skeletal growth collected from radiographic images of contemporary samples of living and deceased individuals from the United States (birth to 20 years) and South Africa (birth to 12 years). Further evaluation of deceased individuals is used to explore differential patterns among manners of death (MOD). Results do not show any significant differences in skeletal growth or dental development between living and deceased individuals. However, in the South African deceased sample the youngest individuals exhibited substantially smaller diaphyseal lengths than the living sample, but by 2 years of age the differences were negligible. In the US sample, neither significant nor substantial differences were found in dental development or diaphyseal length according to MOD and age (>2 years of age), though some long bones in individuals <2 years of age did show significant differences. No significant differences were noted in diaphyseal length according to MOD and age in the SA sample. The current findings refute the idea that contemporary deceased and living individuals would present with differential growth and development patterns through all of ontogeny as well as the assumptions linking short stature, poor environments, and MOD. (Publisher Abstract)


Date Published: May 1, 2021