Sexual dimorphism in human lower limb bone structure: relationship to subsistence strategy and sexual division of labor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Cross-sectional geometric properties of the human femur and tibia are compared in males and females in a number of recent and archaeological population samples extending back to the Middle Paleolithic. There is a consistent decline in sexual dimorphism from hunting-gathering to agricultural to industrial subsistence strategy levels in properties which measure relative anteroposterior bending strength of the femur and tibia in the region about the knee. This trend parallels and is indicative of reductions in the sexual division of labor, in particular differences in the relative mobility of males and females. Sexual dimorphism in mediolateral bending strength near the hip shows no consistent temporal trend, probably reflecting relatively constant sex differences in pelvic structure related to the requirements of childbirth. Upper and Middle Paleolithic samples are indistinguishable in terms of sexual dimorphism from modern huntergatherers, suggesting a similar sexual division of labor. The results illustrate the utility of cross-sectional geometric parameters of long bone diaphyses in reconstructing behavioral differences within and between past populations. Some variations in the accuracy of sexing techniques based on diaphyseal measurements of the lower limb long bones may also be explained by these behavioral and structural factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-416
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Volume16
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1987

Keywords

  • biomechanics
  • lower limb skeleton
  • sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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