Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Prehistoric women’s manual labor exceeded that of athletes through the first 5500 years of farming in Central Europe

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Science Advances  29 Nov 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 11, eaao3893
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3893
  • Fig. 1 Humeral and tibial CSG properties among the prehistoric and modern groups.

    (A) Polar second moment of area (J), left humerus, 35% section location (n = 157). (B) Polar second moment of area (J), right humerus, 35% section location (n = 151). (C) Polar second moment of area (J), tibia, 50% section location (n = 173). (D) Imax/Imin, tibia, 50% section location (n = 178). Data are given as means ± 95% confidence interval (CI). Summary statistics by group are given in Table 1, and means were compared using one-way ANOVA.

  • Fig. 2 Variation in tibial J and Imax/Imin among prehistoric and living women.

    (A) Box plot of midshaft tibial J values showing the median, upper and lower quartiles, and interquartile range by group (n = 173). (B) Box plot of midshaft tibial Imax/Imin values showing the median, upper and lower quartiles, and interquartile range by group (n = 178). (C) Midshaft tibial solid-section images showing the variation in Imax/Imin values among Early Neolithic LBK women and living women. Summary statistics by group are given in Table 1.

  • Fig. 3 Interlimb strength proportions among prehistoric and agricultural women.

    Scatterplot of humeral versus tibial raw J (mm4) among prehistoric agricultural women (green) and living women (blue) (n = 159). Solid and dashed lines represent the lines of best fit and 95% CI, respectively. Group comparisons were performed using one-way ANOVA on standardized residuals from regressions of average raw humeral J to raw tibial J.

  • Fig. 4 Interlimb strength proportions among prehistoric and agricultural women by group.

    Scatterplot of humeral versus tibial raw polar second moments of area (J; mm4) among prehistoric agricultural women and living women by time period and sport (n = 159). Solid lines of best fit represent prehistoric populations, and dashed lines of best fit represent living groups.

  • Table 1 Solid-section female limb bone summary statistics by group.

    All properties derived from solid cross sections. Values are given as means (SD). Medieval humeral values were obtained from three-dimensional (3D) laser scans. All other prehistoric humeral values were obtained from silicone molds. Coefficients of variation are calculated as (SD/mean) × 100. –, variation not examined due to small sample size; CV, coefficient of variation.

    Tibia
    nSize-standardized JnImax/Imin
    MeanRangeCV (%)MeanRangeCV (%)
    Prehistoric
    Neolithic3135.14 (7.26)22.92–53.4120.66342.24 (0.41)1.43–3.1318.30
    Bronze Age3031.70 (6.39)19.43–46.5920.16322.12 (0.32)1.55–3.0315.09
    Iron Age1733.98 (8.09)22.38–49.0823.81132.01 (0.25)1.52–2.4112.44
    Medieval1131.16 (7.15)23.15–47.9222.95111.87 (0.24)1.35–2.1012.83
    Modern
    Running1846.41 (7.16)33.08–59.1815.42182.43 (0.35)1.88–3.1814.40
    Football1141.36 (7.53)30.31–56.2318.21112.16 (0.33)1.59–2.7815.28
    Rowing1635.98 (6.65)24.88–47.0018.48162.15 (0.28)1.67–2.7813.02
    Controls3733.76 (6.26)23.26–45.5218.54371.97 (0.29)1.46–2.7514.72
    Humerus
    nLeft size–standardized JnRight size–standardized J
    MeanRangeCV (%)MeanRangeCV (%)
    Prehistoric
    Neolithic2918.65 (4.92)11.42–27.8926.382718.82 (4.70)12.16–28.6724.97
    Bronze Age2718.05 (3.37)12.52–25.5518.672818.46 (3.49)12.93–25.8218.91
    Iron Age1718.69 (4.17)12.71–26.0722.311420.71 (4.01)14.53–25.3819.36
    Medieval514.54 (2.26)11.56–16.75713.23 (3.97)7.32–18.25
    Modern
    Running1716.62 (3.67)11.01–26.5522.081617.89 (3.38)13.06–25.4918.89
    Football1114.54 (2.05)10.44–17.5014.101015.02 (2.35)10.40–18.5215.65
    Rowing1714.62* (3.71)12.35–27.2123.561616.83 (3.56)11.98–26.2321.15
    Controls3513.27 (2.77)7.99–20.1220.873513.70 (2.90)8.79–20.8321.17

    *Value given is median (SD) due to non-normal distribution (mean value, 15.75).

    • Table 2 Results of post hoc (ANOVA) comparisons of bone CSG properties and linear regression standardized residuals.

      All ANOVAs are significant to P < 0.001. Bold indicates significant post hoc P values. All values of J were size-standardized. Run, endurance runners; FB, football players; Row, rowers; Neo, neolithic; BA, Bronze Age; IA, Iron Age; Med, Medieval period; SR Hum:Tib, standardized residuals of regression of humeral and tibial J.

      Bone variableNeoBAIAMedRunFBRow
      Tibial Imax/Imin
        BA0.959
        IA0.5231.0
        Med<0.0270.5451.0
        Run0.734<0.033<0.012<0.001
        FB1.01.00.9990.5880.595
        Row1.01.00.9990.4530.2591.0
        Control<0.0140.8231.01.0<0.0010.8970.750
      Tibial J
        BA0.774
        IA1.01.0
        Med0.9451.01.0
        Run<0.001<0.001<0.001<0.001
        FB0.269<0.0030.166<0.0190.801
        Row1.00.6641.00.86<0.0010.701
        Control1.00.9991.01.0<0.001<0.0461.0
      Left humeral J*
        BA0.980
        IA0.9730.709
        Med0.093<0.0240.078
        Run0.3110.1380.1960.170
        FB<0.008<0.004<0.0080.9550.115
        Row<0.026<0.013<0.020.7240.3100.689
        Control<0.001<0.001<0.0010.297<0.0010.160<0.038
      Right humeral J
        BA1.0
        IA0.8730.633
        Med0.1080.128<0.024
        Run0.9940.9990.4580.225
        FB<0.05<0.036<0.0050.9490.224
        Row0.7680.8180.1430.4880.9880.765
        Control<0.001<0.001<0.0011.0<0.0050.8080.081
      SR Hum:Tib J
        BA0.247
        IA1.00.654
        Med1.00.1810.992
        Run0.072<0.001<0.0370.145
        FB<0.003<0.001<0.002<0.0170.983
        Row1.00.4610.9931.00.5720.163
        Control<0.009<0.001<0.0090.0791.00.7040.550

      *Kruskal-Wallis test was performed due to non-normality of distribution in one of the groups, with two-tailed Mann-Whitney post hoc comparisons.

      †Small sample size (n = 6).

      • Table 3 Size-standardized pQCT-derived true CSG property means from the tibial midshaft among living males and females.

        All male data are taken from Shaw and Stock (15), and all male data were size-standardized following the methods outlined in Shaw and Stock (15). Imax, maximum second moment of area, quantifies maximum bending/torsional rigidity; Imin, minimum second moment of area, quantifies minimum bending/torsional rigidity; CA, cortical bone area; %CA, percent cortical bone area (relative to total subperiosteal area).

        nProperty
        JImaxIminImax/IminCA%CA
        Runners
        Males1550.13 (7.81)35.93 (4.23)14.20 (2.86)2.60 (0.50)6.20 (0.51)79.50 (2.93)
        Females1844.07 (6.45)31.50 (5.17)12.57 (1.89)2.53 (0.38)5.91 (0.51)77.89 (4.75)
        Controls
        Males2038.10 (7.91)26.46 (4.23)11.64 (1.20)2.28 (0.28)5.22 (0.58)74.60 (5.01)
        Females3731.11 (5.68)20.74 (4.00)10.37 (2.04)2.02 (0.31)4.72 (0.60)72.71 (4.12)

      Supplementary Materials

      • Supplementary material for this article is available at http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/3/11/eaao3893/DC1

        Supplementary Materials and Methods

        fig. S1. Map of Central and Southeast Europe indicating the sampled cemeteries in approximate chronological order.

        table S1. Descriptive statistics of living women.

        table S2. Prehistoric skeletal sample details.

        data file S1. Screening questionnaire for athletes.

        data file S2. Screening questionnaire for control subjects.

        data file S3. Health and activity questionnaire for athletes.

        data file S4. Health and activity questionnaire for control subjects.

        References (6576)

      • Supplementary Materials

        This PDF file includes:

        • Supplementary Materials and Methods
        • fig. S1. Map of Central and Southeast Europe indicating the sampled cemeteries in approximate chronological order.
        • table S1. Descriptive statistics of living women.
        • table S2. Prehistoric skeletal sample details.
        • data file S1. Screening questionnaire for athletes.
        • data file S2. Screening questionnaire for control subjects.
        • data file S3. Health and activity questionnaire for athletes.
        • data file S4. Health and activity questionnaire for control subjects.
        • References (65–76)

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