Osteobiography of a 19th Century Elderly Woman with Pertrochanteric Fracture and Osteoporosis: A Multidisciplinary Approach

Valentina Mariotti, Marco Milella, Ester Orsini, Alessandra Trirè, Alessandro Ruggeri, Gino Fornaciari, Simona Minozzi, Davide Caramella, Ugo Albisinni, Saverio Gnudi, Stefano Durante, Antonio Todero, Elisa Boanini, Katia Rubini, Adriana Bigi, Maria Giovanna Belcastro


In this paper the osteobiography of an elderly woman recovered from a cemetery tomb where she was buried in 1850, affected by hip fracture and osteoporosis, is described. The overall anthropological characteristics of the individual have been investigated. Macroscopic, radiographic, tomographic, microscopic, and chemical and structural examinations have been performed to give a detailed account of the condition of the skeleton. A non-union pertrochanteric fracture not surgically treated and probably due to senile osteoporosis was diagnosed. The consequences of the fracture to the bones show that this individual likely survived several years following the injury. The osseous features we describe (remodelled bone at the fracture site, asymmetry of entheseal changes likely related to the particular walking pattern of the individual) may be useful in personal identification of skeletons of legal interest. Regarding the recognition of osteoporosis in unearthed skeletons, our study underlines that the cortical thickness, microscopic features, degree of crystallinity and Ca/P ratio represent more useful elements than the mean bone density, mineral/matrix ratio and mineral maturity, which are more sensitive to diagenetic changes that affect the mineral phase post-mortem.


palaeopathology; non-union fracture; pertrochanteric fracture; osteoporosis; bone morphology; cristallinity

Full Text:


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.