Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Human trabecular bone from seven historic cemeteries in southern Ontario and modern cadavers was analysed for chemical content using U.V-enzymatic lyase spectrometry. Citrate was the principal element of interest.
Ninety percent of total body citrate is contained within the adult human skeleton. The amount of citrate present in human bone is known to vary between bone types. Citrate accumulation in trabecular bone also varies between the sexes. This study was carried out in order to address two questions. First, is it feasible to compare trabecular bone citrate levels from different sites within a given region in order to make sex discriminatory inferences? That is, can variation through time in trabecular bone citrate content between the sexes be detected, and if present, does it exist in sufficient quantities in order to be used as a chemical means for the determination of the sex of human skeletal remains. Second, if valid comparisons can be made, what precision and reliability of sex discrimination is possible for incomplete or fragmentary remains?
Seven individuals historic cemeteries were chosen for this totalling forty-seven study. The earliest documented cemetery in the series was the St. Thomas Church cemetery, dating from ca. AD 1821 to ca. AD 1874. The usedates of four of the cemeteries (ie. Stirrup Court, Breslau, Wise and Harvie) were contemporaneous with the approximately fifty year time span of the St. Thomas Church cemetery. The remaining cemeteries (ie. Waterloo County Gaol and London County Gaol) post-date the rest of the series by only a few decades. Modern cadaver samples totalling twenty-five individuals of known age and sex were also assayed for trabecular bone citrate content.
Both the archaeological and modern human skeletal samples were analysed for trabecular bone citrate content by citrate lyase enzyme spectrometry. All analyses were performed using a DU-7 spectrophotometor. This technique provides good precision and reproducibility, and is specific for citrate only.
Results indicate that observed differences in trabecular bone citrate content of individuals within the seven cemeteries and the modern sample does not stem from testing different anatomical regions of the skeleton. There is also no evidence to show that citrate content varies substantially enough between the sexes within either the cemeteries or modern sample to justify the use of citrate levels as a chemical indicator of the sex of incomplete and/or fragmentary remains.
It is proposed that small sample size, intrinsic age, sex and geographic distribution, historical time and/or combinations of all of these variables affect adequate assessment of citrate content results derived from archaeological contexts. Finally, it is suggested that it is not possible to compare trabecular bone citrate levels of any individuals in order to determine their sex until more precise information concerning its location and depositon in human bone is known.
Gibbs, Linda May, "What's Sex in the East is Not Necessary Sex in the West: Citrate, Sex and Human Skeletal Remains" (1991). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6769.
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