Eduardo Maya

Faculty Advisor

Marian Hamilton

Faculty Advisor

Britney Kyle

Document Type


Publication Date



One controversy within bioarchaeology revolves around identifying what factors cause cribra orbitalia (CO) and porotic hyperostosis (PH). These two pathological conditions identified by porosities on the human cranium are used by bioarchaeologists as indicators of the overall health of archaeological human remains. Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) was once widely believed to cause these conditions. Because of the hypothesis connecting CO and PH to IDA, researchers often assume remains with porosities were afflicted with IDA. This leads to other assumptions about that individual’s life history, including assumptions that afflicted individuals may have had parasitic infections, limited diet (i.e., mal- or under-nutrition), lack of access to resources, or potentially intestinal diseases, and that these individuals may have had limited ability to work due to the exhaustion and lethargy that typically stem from IDA in modern populations. Because numerous life history assumptions follow the observation of CO and/or PH in skeletal remains, it is crucial to understand what factors indeed cause CO and PH, and if they are truly linked to iron deficiency. Many of the current research methods used to test the IDA hypothesis destroy irreplaceable human skeletal samples. Portable XRF (p-XRF) has the capability to conduct this same type of research while keeping samples intact. P-XRF uses photons generated through an x-ray beam to measure naturally occurring electron volt differences found between elements. P-XRF data will be analyzed to assess the probability of a difference in iron concentration in individuals with and without CO and PH. Results could show support for the IDA hypothesis, if a correlation between low iron and porosities exist, while data indicating no difference would fail to show support. This research will also assess the effectiveness of p-XRF as a method for evaluating hypotheses like the IDA anemia hypothesis in human skeletal remains in the future.


This presentation is a finalist for the Undergraduate Social Sciences, Education, Business Research Excellence Award.