Histological identification of oxen metapodia - a preliminary study

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Histological identification of oxen metapodia - a preliminary study


S2-1, New Approaches to the Secondary Products Revolution, poster



Whether cattle were used for traction can be an important question in archaeozoological studies. The presence of oxen is a clear indication for the use of cattle as draught animals. However, sexing cattle by means of measurement on e.g. horn cores and metapodia can be difficult due to small sample sizes and fragmentation. A histological study of cattle long bones showed that the general primary bone structure consists of fast-growing (fibro-lamellar complex) bone types. Ten metapodia of known sex were studied to see if the bone structure in oxen differs from those in cow or bull. At the periost, oxen metapodia show a thick layer of slow-growing primary bone (lamellar bone types). The layers were between 500 and 3000 μm thick. Their thickness relative to the whole cortex at that point varies between 3,7 % and 42,9 %. This was not observed in cow or bull metapodia. While the secondary bone structure is influenced by age and mechanical strain, the primary bone structure is determined by growth rate. Early castration affects the growth of oxen, resulting in long and slender metapodia. The closure of the epiphyses generally occurs later. Also, no corresponding increase in radial growth occurs. These changes cause a slowing-down of the histological growth rate, expressed in a thick layer of primary lamellar (slow-growing) bone types at the periost. Further study on a larger sample is needed to explore the possibilities of identifying oxen metapodia by means of histology.




Institute for Geo- and Bioarchaeology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands (saddha.cuijpers@falw.vu.nl)


Cuijpers, Saddha


August 2010

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Cuijpers, Saddha. "Histological identification of oxen metapodia - a preliminary study ," in BoneCommons, Item #1069, http://alexandriaarchive.org/bonecommons/items/show/1069 (accessed August 7, 2020).


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