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date: 28 March 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Human diet and nutrition have been the focus of decades of archaeological research, with studies increasingly investigating the multiple variables affecting bone maintenance - diet, genetics, sex, age, physical activity, pregnancy and lactation. Patterns of severe bone loss in modern populations have prompted scholars to investigate how skeletal systems may have responded under different biocultural contexts in the past. Here we review literature from modern clinical studies, which have mainly focused on the effects of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, and archaeological studies, which have traditionally viewed bone loss as a pathological condition related to nutritional status and stress. The complexity of interactions of diet, physical activity, and hormonal status on bone health are now being recognized, as we illustrate in a case study from medieval England. Finally, we discuss the potential for combining multiple approaches to investigate ancient human dietary practices and extract maximum information from skeletal tissues.

Keywords: bone maintenance, bone development, bone loss, nutritional status, bone health, dietary practices, skeletal systems

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