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Cortical bone maintenance in an historic Afro-American Cemetery sample from Cedar Grove Arkansas.

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 74:255-264 (1987)
Cortical Bone Maintenance in an Historic Afro-American
Cemetery Sample From Cedar Grove, Arkansas
DEBRA L. MARTIN, ANN L. MAGENNIS, AND JEROME C. ROSE
School of Natural Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts
01002 (D.L. M.); Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 (A.L.M.); Department of Anthropology,
University of Arkansas, Fayetteuille, Arkansas 72701 (J.C.R.)
KEY WORDS
Bone histology, Post-Reconstruction, Osteology,
Paleopathology
ABSTRACT The relocation and analysis of 80 skeletons from the Cedar
Grove Cemetery, located in southwest Arkansas, provides a n opportunity to
examine the level of health and nutrition exprienced by Afro-Americans in the
post-Reconstruction South (1878-1930). The demographic profile lends support
to the interpretation that Cedar Grove participated in the nationwide decline
in Afro-American health. The high frequencies of skeletal lesions indicative of
dietary deficiencies and infectious disease demonstrate that this was a highly
stressed population. For this analysis, adult femoral thin sections (15 females
and 14 males) are examined histologically. These data provide support to the
assertion that the Cedar Grove population experienced poor health. Measures
taken from the sections include cortical thickness, percent cortical area, and
mean number of resorption spaces and forming osteons per square millimeter
of bone. As a group, they demonstrate low percent cortical area compared with
well-nourished normals. They also show high rates of resorption to formation,
thereby disrupting the balance necessary for normal cortical bone maintenance. The pattern established for bone porosity in this group is not a function
of age but rather is due to other factors, most likely nutrition and disease
stress. What may be unique about this group is that males, as well as females,
experienced problems with calcium homeostasis and normal maintenance and
repair of bone. Taken together, these data support the interpretation that diet
and health were substandard in the post-Reconstruction South.
Afro-American history is a complex subject
which has engendered numerous debates involving not only historians, but anthropologists and demographers as well. In particular,
our knowledge of the post-Reconstruction period (1878-1930) is clouded by poor census
data, scarce historic documents, and unreliable civil records. This situation has resulted
in polarization of historic opinion, with some
researchers suggesting that diet, health, and
the general quality of life improved after
emancipation (e.g., Stampp, 19651, while others contend that the opposite was true (Fogel
and Engerman, 1974).
Until recently, the skeletal remains of people from this time period have been largely
unavailable. Yet, skeletons can provide infor-
0 1987 ALAN R. LISS, INC.
mation critical to a n understanding of conditions of life and health during this historic
period. Analysis of skeletal remains collected
during the relocation of Cedar Grove (3LA97),
a rural Afro-American cemetery in southwest Arkansas, is ideally suited for addressing issues of postemancipation health. These
data suggest, at least for this sample, that
diet, health, and the general quality of life
did deteriorate after emancipation. Although
both skeletal data and interpretations based
on the analytical results from the Cedar
Grove Cemetery are reported in detail elsewhere (Rose, 19851, the most salient points
are presented here.
Received March 4, 1986; revision accepted July 23, 1986.
256
D.L. MARTIN, A.L. MAGENNIS, AND J.C. ROSE
The demographic profile of the Cedar Grove
Cemetery is indicative of significant dietary
and disease stress. The life table constructed
from skeletal age-at-death shows that the
probability of dying is most similar to Weiss's
model life table 15.0-45.0 (1973:118). This
model life table is among those representing
the most highly stressed populations in the
Weiss simulation series. The Cedar Grove
infant mortality rate of 27.5% is very high,
while life expectancy at birth is only 14 years.
The average adult age at death, however, is
41.2 years for males and 37.7 years for
females.
There is abundant skeletal evidence for dietary deficiencies (refer to Rose, 1985).
Slightly more than half of the children dying
between 3 and 20 months demonstrate active
cribra orbitalia. Healed cribra orbitalia and
porotic hyperostosis occur commonly among
the adults as well, indicating a significant
prevalence of iron deficiency anemia. Some,
but not the majority of these lesions, may be
attributed to sickle-cell anemia. Nearly onequarter of the children dying between 3 and
20 months also have rachitic cranial lesions
indicative of vitamin D-deficient rickets.
Patterns of periosteal lesions also suggest
that infectious disease was a significant factor contributing to the observed morbidity
and mortality profile (refer to Rose, 1985). In
addition to the relatively high frequency of
rachitic lesions and active cribra orbitalia
exhibited by children aged 3-20 months, this
group shows high frequencies of active systemic periostitis and endocranial periostitis.
All five of the skeletons aged younger than
birth and the majority of the 11 neonates
exhibit active systemic periostitis. The presence of widespread systemic infection of both
prematures and neonates suggests a congenital origin. Taken together these lesions indicate severe dietary deficiencies combined
with chronic infections, all contributing to a
peak mortality a t 18 months. The adults also
demonstrate high rates of infection.
Adult males and females exhibit high frequencies of spinal osteophytosis and osteoarthritis of the major joints, hands, and feet.
This pattern of degenerative boney changes
indicates a hard physical lifestyle with
chronic back and joint stress. Accidents and
personal violence are common among the
males-one-fifth of the sample demonstrates
healed cranial fractures.
Thus, gross macroscopically observed pathologies and the demographic profile reveal
many stresses to which the Cedar Grove community was exposed. However, microscopic
analysis of bone can provide a n additional
dimension to our understanding of these patterns of morbidity and mortality. In this
study, microstructural analysis is used to
complement and enhance the interpretations
of the biological consequences of this period
in Afro-American history.
Microstructural features of bone can be
used as a model system which provides a
window into the past, giving a view of earlier
behavior and health of the individual (Frost,
1966). At the histological level, bone is composed primarily of multicellular units called
Haversian systems or osteons (refer to
Vaughan, 1981). Within a n osteon, mineralized layers of bone are arranged concentrically around a central vascular canal (Fig.
la). Bone is maintained by a constant process
of resorption of older osteons and formation
and mineralization of newer ones.
The rate, or balance, of bone formation and
resorption varies across age groups and between individuals due to differing biomechanical, nutritional, hormonal, and growth
demands (Halstead, 1974; C ~ n y1984;
,
Frost,
1985). These demands can be met only
through skeletal remodeling or turnover.
When resorption and formation are not balanced, there can be a net loss of bone, generally referred to as osteoporosis (Raisz, 1982).
Bone serves as the primary storage place
for calcium and phosphorus. Reserves are accumulated during growth and then released
during periods of low calcium intake, poor
absorption, or increased demand. Among
others, pregnancy, lactation, and biomechanical stress increase calcium expenditure
(Sampson and Jansen, 1984). A balance between dietary intake and release of calcium
from the bone is essential for maintaining
serum calcium levels. Maintenance of serum
calcium levels is critical because calcium is
necessary for every biological process where
there is tissue stimulation coupled to a response (Raisz, 1982). Calcium is also essential for intercellular bridging and communication between cells (Raisz and Kream,
1981).Extreme demands for calcium can and
do compromise the integrity of the skeleton.
Bone turnover ensures the availability of
serum calcium, and several mediating systems involving formation and resorption exist that regulate the flow of calcium.
Experimental and clinical research suggests that metabolic disturbances brought on
CORTICAL BONE MAINTENANCE
257
tion is examined for Cedar Grove adult
samples. Bone quality is assessed through
the analysis of resorption spaces and forming
osteons, and bone quantity is measured by
thickness and cortical area. Assessment of
these variables is used to provide a measure
of metabolic disturbance, especially undernutrition. Finally, the pattern of bone maintenance and loss is used to evaluate the
impact of dietary and disease stress on adult
morbidity and mortality at Cedar Grove.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Fig. 1. a: Photomicrograph of a femoral thin section
a Cedar Grove male aged 40-44 showing many
normal and completely formed osteons (A). b: Photomicrograph of a femoral thin section ( X 100) of a Cedar
Grove female aged 35-39. A large resorption space (R)is
characterized by the highly active, irregular, and scalloped shape of the oversized central canal. Several forming osteons (F)are characterized by their relatively large
and smooth canals.
( X 100)of
by nutritional deficiencies and disease are
reflected in significant increases or changes
in the rate of bone turnover. For example, a
diet low in calcium, iron, and protein results
in slowed bone growth, bone loss, and increased bone turnover (Winter et al., 1972;
Mahoney and Hendricks, 1975; Glick and
Rowe, 1981). Insufficient protein retards the
formation of new bone matrix, and disturbances in calcium metabolism alter the rate
of bone mineralization (Parsons, 1981). Demineralization as well as the failure to mineralize existing or forming bone results in
both a quantitative and qualitative change
in cortical bone (Park, 1964; Garn, 1970;
Stewart, 1975).
In order to document this process, the relationship between bone resorption and forma-
During the construction of a revetment
along the Red River, the US. Army Corps of
Engineers encountered what was thought to
be a small historic cemetery and a prehistoric Caddo farmstead. After determination of
elegibility for nomination to the National
Register of Historic Places, the nine marked
historic graves were relocated and the prehistoric site was excavated. During the excavation, a n additional 104 unmarked grave
outlines were located. A document search established that this cemetery had been used
by the Afro-American community affiliated
with the Cedar Grove Baptist Church, which
lost use of the cemetery when it was covered
by almost 2 m of silt during the 1927 flood.
After extensive negotiations and legal determinations, those 80 graves scheduled for destruction by revetment construction were
excavated, analyzed, and relocated.
The skeletal remains and all associated
grave contents were excavated with standard archaeological techniques and analyzed
in a field laboratory prior to reburial in a
new cemetery plot (Rose, 1985). Both historical and archaeological evidence established
that all excavated individuals were interred
between 1890 and 1927. In addition to the
standard bioarchaeological data (i.e., age, sex,
osteometry, pathology, and nonmetric traits),
a 5-cm section from the femur midshaft was
obtained from 38 of the individuals (31adults
and seven subadults). For this analysis, 29
adult femora (14 males and 15 females) are
used, ranging in age from 20 through 50+
years (Table 1).
Patterns of cortical porosity and maintenance are determined from analysis of the
midshaft femoral sections. For purposes of
establishing baseline comparative data on
size and shape of the cortical bone, mean
cortical thickness in millimeters was computed from measurements taken with calipers at eight preselected, equidistant points
258
D.L. MARTIN, A.L. MAGENNIS, AND J.C. ROSE
TABLE 1. Adult cortical thickness (CT) in millimeters
and percent cortical area (PCA)
ID No.
Females
81
__
65
103
14
31
29
39
66
86
93
47
95
21
70
102
Males
55
10
77
15
24
89
92
61
68
82
87
90
96
97
__
Age range
CT (mm)
PCA (%I
20-24
25-29
25-29
30-34
30-34
30-34
35-39
35-39
35-39
35-39
35-39
35-39
50 +
50 +
50 +
6.16
5.90
5.02
7.25
5.92
5.30
5.31
6.13
6.23
6.66
5.12
5.60
7.51
4.88
6.92
71.01
71.35
66.06
82.37
67.20
76.08
64.27
61.21
71.08
79.09
64.01
68.52
62.22
52.18
80.52
20-24
25-29
25-29
35-39
35-39
35-39
40-44
45-49
45-49
45-49
45-49
45-49
45-49
50 +
6.51
6.17
5.56
7.50
6.74
7.14
7.55
8.01
7.83
6.34
6.63
5.14
6.48
5.66
71.69
62.13
62.38
65.27
65.58
72.34
71.17
74.13
77.56
66.13
64.27
61.47
70.24
56.98
the viewing field was reduced to 1.45 mm in
diameter, which provided a field size of 1.65
mm2. Microscopic fields at eight preselected
equidistant points around the cortex were
examined (Martin and Armelagos, 1979;
modified from Ortner, 1975). These points
were selected alternately covering four outer
(periosteal) and four inner (endosteal) surfaces of the cortex beginning with the linea
aspera. The periosteal and endosteal surfaces, or zones, are used in this study to represent the inner and outer halves of the
cortex and should not be confused with the
periosteum and endosteum proper (which are
soft tissue membranes covering boney surfaces). The outer viewing field was placed as
close as possible to the periosteum proper,
and the inner viewing fields were placed adjacent to the endosteum and the bone marrow cavity. To reduce sampling error, at least
20 osteons per field (or 150 osteons per individual) were examined.
Skeletal maintenance is evaluated through
the quantification of osteonal formation and
resorption episodes. These features are useful for understanding how well the cortical
bone is being maintained and permit inference about the amount of bone turnover. If
resorption exceeds osteon formation, the result will be porous and poorly maintained
bone.
In each of the eight periosteal and endosteal viewing fields, total numbers of resorption spaces and forming osteons were
counted. Resorption spaces are characterized
by round, vascular spaces with scalloped borders. Forming osteons are characterized by a
relatively large Haversian canal (Fig. lb).
Mean numbers of resorption and formation
events for the periosteal and endosteal viewing fields were computed, giving a value of
resorption spaces and forming osteons per
1.65 mm2. These values were converted to
number of resorption spaces and forming osteons per square millimeter (by dividing the
viewing field means by 1.65).
around the bone circumference beginning at
the linea aspera. This method closely follows
the technique outlined by Carlson et al.
(1976) and Martin and Armelagos (1979).
Cross-sectional area of bone is computed by
using a transparent grid of known area superimposed on the bone section (Sedlin et al.,
1962). The number of line intersects over
bone is counted. Cortical area is computed by
multiplying the number of bone intersects by
the total grid area and dividing that product
by the total possible intersects. Percent cortical area is computed by dividing cortical
area by the area of the total cross section
(i.e., the area occupied by both cortical bone
RESULTS
and medullary cavity).
Cedar Grove cortical thickness averages for
For the purposes of assessing the process of
bone maintenance, thin sections were made individuals are difficult to evaluate as a sinfollowing the procedures of Stout and Teitle- gle indicator of bone maintenance and health
baum (1976), Baran et al. (19831, and Jawar- (Table 1).A comparison with published femski (1983). The histological structure of the oral cortical thickness measures of prehistorsections was observed with a Vanox bright- ic (Carlson et al., 1976; Martin and Armefield compound microscope. The apochro- lagos, 1979; Thompson and Gunness-Hey,
matic flat-field objective was ~ 1 0 and
, the 1981) and contemporary groups (Garn, 1970;
eyepieces were ~ 1 with
0 a numerical aper- Thompson, 1980) suggests that the majority
ture of 0.1. With the magnification at x 100, of the Cedar Grove males and females match
259
CORTICAL BONE MAINTENANCE
or exceed normal standards for cortical bone
thickness. When cortical thickness is standardized by using femoral length (in order to
control for variability induced by stature differences), the normalized values (not shown
here) are consistent with values reported by
Dewey and co-workers (1969) and Ericksen
(1976). Thus, these data suggest that most of
the Cedar Grove individuals reaching adulthood very likely followed a normal pattern of
bone growth and development for cortical and
medullary expansion. As a general rule, normal young adult males have very robust cortices as compared with age-matched females
and older males. In the Cedar Grove sample,
however, the three youngest males show
lower thickness values than the males aged
35-39 (Table 1). This suggests that the
youngest males may have experienced a disrupted pattern of childhood bone growth and
development.
Percent cortical area is a direct function of
both cortical thickness and periosteal diameter and is a better reflection of overall bone
RMALE
Fig. 2. Percent cortical area plotted for Cedar Grove
individuals by age and sex. The dotted lines represent
ranges for published femoral percent cortical area derived from both prehistoric and contemporary samples
representing normal and pathological adults.
development and maintenance. In addition,
percent cortical area provides a means for
assessing intracortical porosity, as any spaces
unoccupied by bone are not counted in the
computation. The plotted percent cortical
areas for individuals by age and sex (Table 1,
Fig. 2) show that both males and females
exhibit lower values than femoral percent
cortical area for prehistoric (Martin and Armelagos, 1979; Mensforth and Lovejoy, 1980;
Ruff and Hayes, 1982) and contemporary
groups (Garn, 1970; Albanese, 1977).The majority of published values for prehistoric and
contemporary males and females fall within
the dotted lines on Figure 2. Percent cortical
area for Cedar Grove individuals suggests
that both males and females in all age categories had problems with bone maintenance.
In general, the majority of Cedar Grove
adults demonstrate lower values than even
nutritionally stressed groups such as the prehistoric Sudanese Nubians (Martin and Armelagos, 1985)and contemporary individuals
with clinically significant cases of osteoporosis (Albanese, 1977).
The microscopic analysis elucidates the
histological processes associated with decreased bone area and poorly maintained
bone cortices. Group averages by decade for
resorption spaces and forming osteons show
that both sexes exhibit more resorption of
bone per square millimeter in the endosteal
cortex than in the periosteal cortex (Table 2).
Females exhibit more resorption spaces per
square millimeter of bone than do males,
especially in the periosteal cortex. For females in the third decade, there is a n average of 1.8 resorption spaces/mm2 compared
with 0.9 for age-matched males. While small
sample sizes preclude statistical analyses, it
is possible to examine these trends in bone
maintenance across the group for the purposes of establishing patterns.
TABLE 2. Average number of resorption spaces (RS) and forming osteons (FO) per mm2
for the periosteal cortex (PER) and the endosteal cortex (END) by sex for each decade
(standard deviation is in parentheses)
Age group
Female
(n)
20-29
30-39
40-49
50 +
(3)
(9)
(0)
(3)
20-29
30-39
40-49
50
(3)
(9)
(0)
(3)
+
PERiRS
END/RS
Male
(n)
1.8(.6)
1.2(.3)
1.8(.2)
2.7(.4)
(3)
(3)
1.7(.4)
3.0(.5)
(7)
(1)
PER/FO
END/RS
2.5(.4)
2.6(.3)
2.U.3)
2.9(.2)
2.2(.5)
1.8(.4)
13)
(3)
(7)
(1)
PERRS
ENDiRS
0.9(.3)
0.6(.1)
1.3(.2)
1.3
1.2(.6)
1.5(.2)
1.8(.3)
2.0
PERF0
ENDFO
O.K.2)
1.2(.1)
1.0(.4)
2.8
1.8(.3)
1.8(.60
1.9(.5)
2.3
260
D.L. MARTIN, A.L. MAGENNIS, AND J.C. ROSE
The pattern of forming incompletely mineralzied osteons is similar to the above pattern for resorption in that females show more
forming osteons in all age categories than
males except for sixth-decade individuals.
Also, both males and females show more
forming osteons in the endosteal portion of
the cortex than a t the periosteal cortex.
The frequency of resorption spaces and
forming osteons for the two cortical surfaces
by age and sex suggests that at the outer
periosteal surface, females and males exhibit
different patterns of bone resorption. While
females generally demonstrate greater resorption a t the endosteal surface, they also
fail to mineralize bone a t the periosteal surface. Males also show resorption at the endosteal surface, but in contrast to females,
appear able to maintain bone more consistently at the periosteum. Comparison with
published values for number of femoral resorption spaces and forming osteons for contemporary clinical samples (Atkinson, 1965;
Jowsey, 1966) and for prehistoric samples
(Martin and Armelagos, 1979; Richman et
al., 1979; Ericksen, 1980; Thompson and
Gunness-Hey, 1981) suggests that Cedar
Grove values represent physiologically
stressed individuals. Numbers of resorption
spaces and forming osteons are relatively
high by comparison with published norms
and more closely match pathological specimens. Although only a n indirect assessment
of mineralization per se can be obtained
(since microradiographs of Cedar Grove specimens are not yet available), it appears that
these adults had porous cortices.
An assessment of the pattern of resorption
and formation for young (20-34) and older
(35-49) adults with high (above 70%)and low
(below 70%) percent cortical area shows that
individuals with higher-percent cortical area
do have lower numbers of both resorption
spaces and forming osteons (Table 3). Although the sample sizes are too small to test
for significance, these mean values do demonstrate the important relationship between
percent cortical area and the underlying processes of resorption and formation. Individuals with low-percent cortical area have higher
numbers of resorption spaces and forming
osteons per square millimeter than those individuals with higher-percent cortical area.
Those individuals with lower-percent cortical
area have a higher amount of bone turnover
activity, resulting in more porous cortical
bone. For those individuals with greater-per-
TABLE 3. Combined male and female average values
for resorption spaces (RS) and forming osteons (FO) per
mdl
PCA <
70%
Young adults
ages 20-34
Older adults
ages 35-49
(RS) 1.1 (.4)
(FO) 0.4 ( 5 )
n=5
(RS) 1.8 (.4)
(FO) 0.7 (.2)
n=G
PCA >
70%
(RS) 2.6 (.9)
(FO) 2.6 (.3)
n=4
(RS) 2.3 (.7)
(FO) 2.9 (.4)
n =9
'The distribution is presented for younger (20-34) and older (3549) age categories by lower (less than 70%) and higher (greater
than 70%) percent cortical area (PCA). Standard deviation is in
parentheses.
cent cortical area, even though the number
of resorption spaces exceeds forming osteon
number, it appears that newly forming osteons go rapidly on to completion, resulting
in low numbers of forming osteons per square
millimeter. Finally, Table 3 shows that factors other than the aging process itself are
affecting bone maintenance, a s there is little
difference between the young and older
groups for either high- or low-percent cortical
area.
The histological profile of Cedar Grove
adults suggests a n inability to maintain or
form bone at a constant rate. The result is
that many individuals have porous cortices
and poorly maintained bone. Both males and
females exhibit higher ratios of bone resorption to bone formation compared with modern normals (Jowsey, 1965; Ortner, 1975)and
nutritionally stressed prehistoric samples
(Martin and Armelagos, 1979; Ericksen,
1980).
The composite picture for males is resorption of bone in the inner endosteal cortex,
with some maintenance of bone integrity in
the outer cortex. In contrast to the females,
the males are able to complete osteons in the
outer periosteal zone, a s evidenced by lower
numbers of osteons in the forming stage (i.e.,
third-decade females have 2.5/mm2, whereas
males have 0.8/mm2; fourth-decade females
have 2.6/mm2, and males have 1.2/mm2).For
females, the picture is somewhat different.
While females also resorb bone in the endosteal cortex, they fail to complete osteons in
the outer cortex.
Using tracer studies, Atkinson (1965) has
demonstrated that bone activity in adults is
much greater in the femoral endosteal regions than in any other part of the femoral
cortex. The high activity occurs along with
rapid resorption that presumably makes a
CORTICAL BONE MAINTENANCE
261
major contribution to calcium homeostasis. the 1880-1930 national Afro-American
Endogenous calcium is not entirely supplied trends indicates that Cedar Grove also expefrom endosteal bone, but also may be aug- rienced an increase in morbidity and mortalmented by small amounts from osteons ity during the post-&construction period.
The patterning and types of skeletal lethroughout the cortex. Females, as well as
males, in this population appear to have ex- sions a t Cedar Grove suggests widespread
perienced problems with both calcium home- dietary deficiencies in protein, vitamins C
ostasis and normal maintenance and repair and D, iron, and possibly calcium. These data
of bone.
support the generalizations from historical
sources: the high rate of lactose intolerance
DISCUSSION
(70-90%) contributed to low milk consumpThe results of this research considered to- tion and calcium deficiency (Kiple and Kiple,
gether with the demographic profile, pat- 1977; Kiple and King, 1981); insufficient calterns and prevalence of gross pathologies, cium intake combined with dark skin pigand historic sources provide a composite pic- mentation produced vitamin D-deficient
ture of the biological consequences of the con- rickets (Sutch, 1976; Kiple and King, 1981);
ditions of life and health around the turn of the low niacin content of the corn and pork
the century for the Cedar Grove community. diet resulted in pellagra (Gibbs et al., 1980;
Using historic documents alone, it is not pos- Sutch, 1976); the low bioavailability of iron
sible to get a clear understanding of Afro- in a corn-baseddiet, combined with inherited
American demographic processes between blood abnormalities (e.g., sickle cell) fre1860 and 1930 because of the questionable quently resulted in anemias (Kiple and Kiquality of the 1870, 1890, and 1920 censuses, ple, 1977;Kiple and King, 1981;Sutch, 1976);
especially for rural southern Afro-Americans the low amino acid proportions of trypto(Farley, 1970). Utilizing the most reliable of phan, lysine, and methionine in both corn
the census data, Farley (1970: 3) observes a and pork proteins contributed to protein malsignificant national trend of declining Afro- nutrition (Kiple and King, 1981); and magAmerican population growth between 1880 nesium deficiency lowered resistance t o
and 1940 and suggests that there was a bio- infection (Kiple and Kiple, 1977).From these
logical crisis for the entire population at the data we can infer that diet was substandard.
turn of the century. The census data were so
Comparison of the prevalence and patternstriking that, in 1937, Holmes predicted the ing of skeletal pathologies exhibited in the
imminent disappearance of Afro-Americans Cedar Grove series with other slave and An(Holmes, 1937).
tebellum skeletal series also suggests that
The demographic profile of the Cedar Grove dietary and disease stress at Cedar Grove
sample suggests that this population did ex- was pronounced. The frequency of cribra orperience high rates of morbidity and mortal- bitalia in the Cedar Grove series is virtually
ity. The life table derived from skeletal age identical to that from a South Carolina planat death is most similar to those model life tation sample (Rathbun, 1987). Infection
tables which represent highly stressed popu- rates in the Cedar Grove sample (subadults,
lations (Rose, 1985). Despite their limita- 73%; adult males, 60%;adult females, 52%)
tions, the Cedar Grove demographic data are are substantially higher than those reported
consistent with the 1880-1930 census data, from a Maryland slave sample (adults, 26.3%)
which indicate increased mortality and lower (Angel and Kelley, 1987) and an urban free
life expectancy during the post-Reconstruc- black population from Philadelphia (adults,
tion period. The infant mortality rate of 5.5%) (Angel and Kelley, 1987). Similar to
27.5% is identical to the nonwhite rate de- the prevalence of cribra orbitalia, the frerived from the census data (Farley, 1970:212). quency of infectious lesions at Cedar Grove
In contrast, the Cedar Grove adult male and is nearly the same as that from the South
female average age at death is not radically Carolina plantation (subadults, 80%; males
different from means derived from Antebel- 69%; and females 60%) (Rathbun, 1987). Delum skeletal series, and if anything, they are spite small sample sizes and geographic/culslightly higher (see Angel and Kelley, 1987; tural variation, the patterns of skeletal
Kelley and Angel, 1987; Rathbun, 1987). Al- pathology in the Cedar Grove sample sugthough adult mean age at death is similar, gest this population was subject to greater
the concordance of infant mortality rate nutritional and disease stress than the An(which is considered to be more reliable) with tebellum populations mentioned above and
262
D.L. MARTIN, A.L. MAGENNIS, AND J.C.ROSE
was as highly stressed as the South Carolina
plantation population.
Analysis of bone histology lends further
support to the assertion that, in general, the
post-Reconstruction period is characterized
by substandard nutritional intake and heavy
disease and work loads. As a group, Cedar
Grove adults demonstrate low-percent cortical area compared with well-nourished normals. They also show high ratios of bone
resorption to formation, disrupting the balance necessary for normal cortical bone
maintenance. The observed pattern of bone
porosity in this group is not a function of age
but rather is due to other factors which are
most likely nutrition and disease stress.
Numerous studies indicate that younger
females are at greatest risk of bone loss because of pregnancy, lactation, and fluctuations in hormonal balance, all of which can
have a negative effect on skeletal density
(Atkinson and West, 1970; Raman et al.,
1978; Smith et al., 1985; Walker et al., 1972).
Historical documents suggest that Antebellum and Reconstruction period black females
experienced high parity (6-8 children) and
breast fed their infants until becoming pregnant again (Farley, 1970; Gutman, 1976). Although we have no documented evidence that
women in the Cedar Grove community also
practiced lactation until the next pregnancy,
any widespread deviation from this norm
should have been noted in the available historical sources for Arkansas. The incidence
of anemias, premature births, spontaneous
abortion, toxemias, and complications in labor increases with each additional pregnancy
and can be confounded by a diet low in protein, calcium, and other nutrients (Dieckmann et al., 1951). The historical sources
previously summarized indicate that the diet
was deficient in quality protein, calcium, vitamins, iron, and other nutrients.
The frequency of cribra orbitalia and porotic hyperostosis indicate a high incidence
of anemia (due to both iron deficiency and
sickle cell) for this group. Experimental research has shown that during periods of anemia, the ability to absorb calcium decreases
significantly (Askoy et al., 1966; Mahoney
and Hendricks, 1975). This condition in
young females could be exacerbated, since
pregnancy and lactation double the need for
calcium Worthington et al., 1977). In summary, the deleterious and synergistic effects
of iron deficiency, and low bioavailability of
iron, protein, and calcium at a time when
demands are highest is reflected in poor bone
quality and quantity for Cedar Grove females.
The excessive porosity and failure to maintain cortical bone exhibited by the males deserves special comment. Percent cortical
area, as a measure of intracortical porosity,
generally falls below 70% for the Cedar
Grove males. This is lower than published
percent cortical area values for contemporary and prehistoric samples. The relative
amount of osteon resorption to formation, especially a t the endosteal cortex, suggests that
there was accelerated bone loss combined
with a failure to complete newly forming osteons. Further evidence that Cedar Grove
males were under extreme stress is supported by the fact that they exceed females
in the prevalence of cribra orbitalia, porotic
hyperostosis, and infectious lesions. The
heavy work load (indicated by degenerative
joint disease), high disease stress, and poor
diet all would have contributed to poor bone
maintenance.
This does not explain, however, why percent cortical area of these males frequently
falls below that of reproductively stressed
females. Historical documents may provide a
partial explanation for this abnormal situation. The “slave narratives” collected during
the Depression (cited in Donald, 1952) give
the impression that the males were so protective of their newly acquired families ke.,
after emancipation) that they frequently deferred access to limited food resources in favor of their wives and children. This practice
in combinaiton with excessive workloads and
disease insults could account for the very
poor bone maintenance seen in the adult
males.
CONCLUSIONS
The previously established pattern of macroscopically observable skeletal pathologies
in the Cedar Grove series suggests that this
population was subject to significant nutritional and disease stress. Results of the analysis of bone quality and quantity reported
here also suggest that nutritional intake was
substandard. Femoral cortical thickness
measures are comparable to well-nourished
samples. Mean percent cortical area is low
for many of the adults when compared with
published norms for contemporary and prehistoric groups. The ratio of osteonal formation to resorption demonstrates that resorption of bone was pronounced for both males
263
CORTICAL BONE MAINTENANCE
and females, especially at the labile endosteal cortex. While this pattern may be linked
to pregnancy and nutritional inadequacy in
females, what is important here is that males
also demonstrate increased bone resorption
relative to formation. We suggest that a combination of factors resulted in the poorly
maintained bone observed in the Cedar
Grove adults. These include a diet poor in
calcium, iron, and protein, a chronic exposure to infectious disease, a rigorous and demanding lifestyle, and occupationally related
degenerative skeletal problems.
Whether conditions of life and health of
Afro-Americans living in the Cedar Grove
community declined dramatically during the
post-Reconstruction period has not been established, but the data presented are suggestive. The similarity of the subadult demographic profile to the national census data
from that time period indicates that Cedar
Grove did participate in the nation-wide decline in health. It is not possible to determine
whether the quality of the diet declined, but
the data clearly support dietary regimen
being substandard. Similarly, the pattern
and prevalence of pathological lesions indicate a very heavy disease load. That the
adults attained normal cortical thickness via
normal growth and development as children
during the slavery and Reconstruction period
suggests that diet and health declined during
the post-Reconstruction period. This hypothesis is partially supported by the low cortical
thickness values of the three youngest males,
who are the only adult males who would
have been children during the post-Reconstruction period.
Further research using techniques which
analyze the cellular and molecular components of bone ultrastructure may provide additional information concerning factors
affecting bone growth and development. Major and minor elemental profiles, as well as
isotopic analysis of the bone collagen, will
give a clearer picture of the types of food
utilized by the Cedar Grove,people and of the
impact that this diet may have had on health.
The building of these types of data bases,
which combine gross, microscopic, and molecular analyses, will provide a more complete picture of health and disease for this
important historic group. Expanding this
data base to a temporal series of samples,
analyzed by comparable methods, would enhance our understanding of the effects of social processes on biological history.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Financial support for the Cedar Grove
Cemetery project was provided by the US.
Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, to the Arkansas Archaeological Survey
and one of the authors (J.C.R.). Partial financial support for the histological analysis was
provided by Hampshire College Dana and
IBM faculty development grants to one of the
authors (D.L.M.). We wish to thank George
J. Armelagos, Alan H. Goodman, and Samual Stout for their comments and suggestions for improving earlier versions of this
paper. To the members of the Cedar Grove
Baptist Church we extend our deepest gratitude for their permission to undertake this
study.
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