Long bone structural analyses and the reconstruction of past mobility: A historical review

Christopher B. Ruff, Clark Spencer Larsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

33 Scopus citations


The use of long bone structural analysis to reconstruct past human behavior had its origins in the 1970s, although it was only in the last 30 years that true population-level comparisons began to be carried out. Since then, several dozen studies of archaeological and paleontological samples have been completed, illustrating the complexity as well as some consistencies in the relationship between bone morphology and mobility. Bone cross-sectional shape rather than relative size appears to be more clearly related to mobility differences. This is particularly true in comparisons between males and females within the same population. Terrain has a strong effect on relative strength of the lower limb bones. Body shape differences also have an effect on structural properties, and must be factored into comparisons. New methods of noninvasively acquiring structural properties promise even greater accessibility of information and larger samples in the future, although caution must be applied when extrapolating from approximations to true section properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReconstructing Mobility
Subtitle of host publicationEnvironmental, Behavioral, and Morphological Determinants
PublisherSpringer US
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781489974600
ISBN (Print)1489974598, 9781489974594
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014


  • Biomechanics
  • Body shape
  • Body size
  • Long bone
  • Mobility
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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