A Habitual Activity in Pre-industrial Rural and Urban Dutch Populations: A Study of Lower Limb Cross-sectional Geometry

22 Jan 2018

This study combines historical data and the principles of bone functional adaptation to examine variation in terrestrial mobility in men and women from pre-industrial urban (Alkmaar 7M, 9F) and rural (Klaaskinderk- erke 12M, 8F; Middenbeemster 21M, 22F) Dutch populations. Cross-sectional properties of the femoral and tib- ial midshaſt are determined to investigate variation in lower limb mechanical loading. All populations had comparable age ranges. Rural Middenbeemster males had significantly more elliptically shaped tibiae compared to the other populations. Rural males from Klaaskinderkerke had significantly greater femoral cross-sectional area and torsional rigidity compared to females. In the tibia, the males from both rural populations had greater torsional rigidity and cross-sectional area compared to females. In the rural Middenbeemster population the males also had significantly more elliptically shaped tibiae compared to females. While no sexual dimorphism was found in the urban Alkmaar, significantly greater variation in lower limb cross-sectional properties was found for both males and females relative to the rural populations. These results conform to predictions based on the historical literature of greater lower limb loading in rural males compared to females as well as a greater variety of tasks performed in urban environments. The lack of significant differences in lower limb torsional rigidity or shape between populations in either sex suggests that rural life was not necessarily more physically strenuous than urban life in pre-industrial Dutch populations. However, variation in sexual dimorphism sug- gests that labor between males and females was differently organized in the rural and urban samples.